Wandsworth Council and Battersea Power Station have come together to launch 'Power to Connect', an organisation which aims to tackle digital poverty and give all students access to online learning.


As the third national lockdown and school closures were announced on 4 January, millions of students across England were devastated by the impact this would have on their education. It is largely accepted that children belong in school, and online learning can never substitute the school experience and personal interactions young people need. While this is a challenging time for all students, it is undeniably worse for those who suffer from digital poverty. The Department for Education has launched the ‘get help with technology’ programme to distribute free laptops to young people and is working in partnership with several mobile network operators to provide free mobile data increases to disadvantaged families.


These are important measures in tackling digital poverty, but they are simply not enough. This is why Wandsworth Council partnered with Battersea Power Station in April 2020 to launch a campaign, Power to Connect, taking upon themselves the responsibility to support young people and their families. Working alongside several local community partners, they are striving to help local families across Wandsworth to tackle digital exclusion. So far, they have donated over 350 laptops, 50 tablets, 40 desktops and more. They have also created an Emergency Phone Data Top Up Fund, where families acquire mobile data top up vouchers from the council.


The initiative is run solely with volunteer support and the generosity of local residents. Residents donate their old devices, which volunteer IT specialists repurpose and volunteers transport. Financial donations are also welcomed to support the cause. This is a remarkable project, and as Paul Scully, the Minister of London expressed, a true example of how people have been “pulling together to support the most vulnerable in their communities.” The achievements of this programme have not gone unnoticed, as Power to Connect was the winner of the ‘Community Impact’ category 2020 at the AbilityNet Tech4GoodAwards.


In conclusion, Power to Connect is a fantastic project, evidencing how COVID-19 has strengthened community ties. Digital poverty is a serious issue which is threatening the education of many, and the collective approach Wandsworth residents have taken in tackling it is a promising development.