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A new report, published by GMCA and Virgin Media Business, has highlighted the positive effects of ongoing efforts and investment to tackle digital exclusion in Greater Manchester.
The ‘Tackling digital inequality in Greater Manchester’ report highlighted the social value impact of Virgin Media Business’ investment after partnering with the city-region on the 2020 rollout of the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN) across Greater Manchester.
The programme, which supported the wider Digital Blueprint for the city-region, included commitments by Virgin to create apprenticeship positions locally to complete the work, as well as supporting digital and STEM skills initiatives more widely.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said of the programme’s impact:
“In Greater Manchester, we have a £5 billion digital ecosystem and we’re putting people at the heart of our digital ambitions. We are well known for doing things differently and collaboration is integral to what we do.
“This programme has brought local and central government together for a common goal, enhancing our digital capacity and helping our public sector sites to continue delivering the best possible services to residents across our city-region.
“It highlights the possibilities when private and public sector work side by side to level up our communities – from towns and cities to our most rural places and spaces, aligning digital ambitions to ensure that anyone, whatever their age, location, or situation, can benefit from the opportunities digital brings.”
The LFFN has seen 15 homeless shelters, community centres and charities to its network since the project began and is providing free connectivity for local people, with six more sites due to be connected this year across Greater Manchester.
Community leaders have reported real benefits for local people, who can use the free connectivity in community spaces to access online services like banking and GP appointments, and have more opportunities to develop digital skills and learn how to use the internet safely. It has also given younger people more places to get online and complete their school work – of particular significance during school closures during the pandemic.
The Greater Manchester LFFN contract has seen Virgin Media Business deliver fibre optic connectivity to more than 1,500 public sector sites throughout the city-region. This new investment, plus existing local authority investments in digital infrastructure, also underpin digital transformation and smart city initiatives across all ten boroughs.