Loneliness negatively impacts both wellbeing and physical health. This issue existed well before the covid-19 pandemic, but there is more awareness of the harm it can cause now that many more people are affected by it. Research by the British Red Cross shows that nearly half of UK adults said they felt lonelier than before the Pandemic.
Related to this is the ‚’digital divide‚’. The pandemic has highlighted the significant disadvantage people face when they do not have access to digital products and services. Access to the internet is now an essential service. Research by Ofcom on Access & Inclusion in 2019, highlights the issues for adults who are elderly or have a physical or mental impairment, with 40% of the UK population aged over 70 not having access to digital devices and services. This is likely to have improved in recent months due to initiatives like Connecting Scotland, whose mission was to get 30,000 digitally excluded households online in 2020.
However, these initiatives are dealing with an immediate need and are not long-term solutions due to the limited connectivity, data allowances and high cost of mobile wifi devices. We need to be more forward thinking; the pace of technology innovation is rapid and means that the current focus will soon be outdated as we adopt more voice and Internet of Things (IoT) use cases into our daily lives. In 2008 only 17% of people in the UK owned a smart phone, but today over 95% of UK households own a mobile phone. In ten years, smart internet connected homes will be the norm.
How might we ensure that all homes have reliable and affordable internet access to support wellbeing? Noting that reliable connectivity is not just about the supply but also the distribution within the property.