For the desperate, the cloud is there, but the hardware is not

The government needs to reinstate schemes to get laptops to low-income households

In 2009, during the most brutal part of the recession caused by the global financial crisis, I found myself unemployed, unqualified and without a laptop. 

For six months, my life was held together through financial support from family, job recommendations from friends and daily trips to the local library for a mere hour on the internet. 

Although I fondly remember it as the year I decided to embark on a career in journalism, I can’t help but think myself extremely lucky to have been able to access cloud services through the library. Because without that my life might have gone in a very grim direction.

With those precious internet hours, I did career research, CV workshops, job applications and even some social media networking. Those were the slow and frustrating initial steps I needed to take to get off the bottom and into a career. The first job was horrendous, but when my first payday came I bought a very basic laptop for £200. It served me well, helping me gradually move up the job ladder over the near decade I owned it, as well as seeing me through a number of online courses. And while I can’t remember the brand, nor would I likely recognise it if I saw it, it will always have a special place in my heart.  

You see, while the cloud is free and you pretty much get all you need to get started when you sign up to a Gmail account, the hardware to access it isn’t. For many, particularly the types of people who make up little library communities, limited access to computers is a barrier to a better life.  

It’s not just job-seekers who face this problem, either. According to research by the National Union of Students (NUS), a third of university students were unable to access online learning during the coronavirus lockdown, with disabled students and those from poor backgrounds being worst affected. Among the reasons for this were insufficient course materials, poor internet connections and (surprise, surprise) a lack of IT equipment and software. 

There used to be a government scheme that acknowledged this problem and sought to remedy it by providing low-income households with £500 to put towards a home computer and broadband access. It was launched in 2008 and reportedly helped around 270,000 families over the course of its existence. But with the arrival of the new Conservative government in 2010 and its focus on austerity, the programme was axed and we've seen nothing like it since.

Right now, as we begin a new cycle of recession and the government tries to find ways of getting people back to work in the new normal, a £500 handout could feasibly pay for a laptop and some decent internet access. Hell, it could arguably get you an entry-level or second-hand smartphone, too. With these tools, the possibilities are only limited by the imagination. 

For me, getting the hardware I needed accelerated my route into journalism, for others it can be the first step on the path to becoming an entrepreneur.

Laptops and phones are also essential tools for remote working, which may be a barrier to some businesses right now. The cost of kitting out your small operation might be too much and it can turn into a decision to furlough staff, make them redundant or even close down your business if it can’t operate in these difficult times. However, with a little help from some hardware schemes, the government can accelerate some aspects of digital transformation. 

When I see the almost daily reports of mass job cuts now as a result of COVID-19, I can’t help but reflect on my own experience of unemployment. With the coronavirus still lurking, a trip to the library or an increasingly rare internet cafe might not be safe, but help for people to buy the hardware themselves could do wonders for equality and maybe even the economy.

Featured Resources

Edge-enabled mobility of the future

Turning vehicle data into value

Download now

Modern networking for the borderless enterprise

Five ways top organisations are optimising networking at the edge

Download now

Address multi-cloud configuration risks

Cloud security challenges and how to overcome them

Watch now

The total economic impact of IBM Security Verify

Cost savings and business benefits enabled by IBM Security Verify

Download now

Recommended

Apple opens all US stores for the first time in a year
business transformation

Apple opens all US stores for the first time in a year

2 Mar 2021
Cyber security firm saw attacks rise by 20% during 2020
cyber security

Cyber security firm saw attacks rise by 20% during 2020

23 Feb 2021
New York AG sues Amazon over handling of COVID-19
Business strategy

New York AG sues Amazon over handling of COVID-19

17 Feb 2021
How can the cloud industry adapt to a post-COVID world?
cloud computing

How can the cloud industry adapt to a post-COVID world?

16 Feb 2021

Most Popular

UK gov flip-flops on remote work, wants it a standard for all jobs
flexible working

UK gov flip-flops on remote work, wants it a standard for all jobs

5 Mar 2021
Star Alliance passenger data stolen in SITA data breach
data breaches

Star Alliance passenger data stolen in SITA data breach

5 Mar 2021
How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

26 Feb 2021