‘Green field’ thinking needed on how 5G can support fairer health and social care provision in rural areas

How 5G can help address digital poverty

8th December 2020 about a 2 minute read

The digital divide in society is still a very real challenge but the rollout of 5G could help address the problem – if it is done properly. 

That was one of the messages from a webinar organised by Future Care Capital this week.  

The event aimed to focus attention on how the rollout of 5G can support strategies to end digital poverty. 

Among the speakers was Ann Williams, Commissioning and Contracts Manager (Adult Social Services) at Liverpool City Council. 

Testbed programme

She said she hoped Liverpool’s experience as part of the government-funded  5G Testbed and Trials Programme could share lessons with rural areas.

“We’ve been very keen to make sure the new technology is open to everybody who needs support and 5G can make that possible. 

“The community has really appreciated the benefits that the new technology has brought.”

Reducing social isolation

For example one of the initiatives in the testbed programme is Push to Talk, a digital device, about the size of a small alarm clock, designed to reduce social isolation.

When pushed it connects an individual with someone else who would like to talk, enabling them to reconnect with their community.

“This has proved very useful during the pandemic,” said Ms Williams. “Loneliness is a real issue in rural and urban areas and this sort of technology can help.”

The Liverpool 5G Consortium won over £4 Million from the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), to take part in the 5G Testbeds programme.

Tony Sceales DCMS Head of Programme Development at the programme told the webinar: “Thinking has changed rapidly and digital technology has become a massively important aspect of our society, our economy and the way we relate to each other”.

He added that although it was becoming more common to have a visit from a carer or a medical professional using wifi, it was important to ensure that it is done well.

The webinar, entitled Connected Care: Enabling rural care through 5G and tech infrastructure, was chaired by Dr Peter Bloomfield, Head of Policy and Research at Future Care Capital

Other speakers were: Liz Jones, Policy Director, National Care Forum and Colin Wood, Programme Manager, 5G Rural Dorset, Dorset Council

A full report of the event is to follow.