The #InternetForAll campaign has been raising awareness around the lack of provision of Wi-Fi in private and communal areas in all residential facilities funded by the Department for Communities since July 2020. To date, this has been an encouraging campaign with a lot of progress made. But much more still needs to be done.
As a group of young people undertaking programmes with Springboard, we started working with PPR in the spring of 2020 to gather and collate data on Wi-Fi provision through our questionnaire answered by over 140 young people. The survey findings supported our campaign and highlighted internet access as a major area in need of improvement in our society – particularly for young people in supported living. With further research we also found out that internet access can be provided by accommodation services in a cheap and easy way. MACS were able to achieve this across 4 sites with an installation cost of only £5,000.
In September the campaign secured a meeting with the Minister for Communities. We presented our research and proposals to the Minister, asking her to support our campaign. The initial meeting went well and we secured the Minister’s backing with a commitment to immediately carry out an audit of current Wi-Fi provision. Before Christmas the Minister contacted homeless hostel providers to request that they open their Wi-Fi to all residents.
To gain further traction and generate more buzz around our campaign, Mick Conlan - the well-known boxer from Belfast - agreed to do a photo shoot with us and share information about our campaign on his social media platforms, which was massive in helping raise awareness. Not only that, he donated £10,000 towards our campaign to help those in need gain access to the internet with devices and data, which is now being used to help young people across Belfast.
This week, we published our campaign report and launched it online with a statement provided by the new Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey. Our campaign has generated a lot of positive attention, being seen and supported by over 100 other organisations in the UK, which I do believe will result in positive action.
Being involved in the #InternetForAll campaign as a young person has been eye opening and has allowed me to learn so much. It has really encouraged me to explore my passion for youth and community work as it does change lives. It’s great to see the positive impact our efforts have made – and we look forward to more.
Caleb is a Youth Mentor and Volunteer with Springboard Opportunities and a campaigner with the #InternetForAll campaign supporting young people in homeless hostels and care facilities.