By Claire Cranton, Head of Corporate Communications and Environment, Social and Governance
We are living through one of the most difficult and unpredictable times, one in which all of us, and the communities around us, are suffering on many levels. Last year, Cellnex undertook significant activity to support local COVID-19 relief across all of the group. The initiative included supporting long term clinical research by collaborating with several European hospitals on the cellular response to immunisation of COVID-19. Additionally, all countries were given funds by Cellnex Group to support groups that are helping to manage and alleviate the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
Cellnex UK has been working with colleagues to identify eligible charities or NGOs that are helping to manage and alleviate the impacts of the COVID-19. All projects are local, community–based and have been working to address the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown measures on society. Additionally, they sit alongside Cellnex UK’s business and are related to connectivity or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.
The first group that we supported was nominated by one of our colleagues. The Southern Area Sea Cadets are part of a consortium of over 400 independent registered charity organisations embed within local communities, offering grassroots support to young people across all socio-economic groups. Southern Area Sea Cadets stated that the lack of IT equipment, Internet access, tablets, and trained volunteers put many of their units at a disadvantage. They were unable to engage with their young people a most crucial time in their lives. The world had come to a standstill; their boats were packed away, units locked up, young people trapped inside, and their volunteers helpless to support them.
The funding provided by Cellnex UK offered them the opportunity to access vital technology, be connected, continue learning, and stay in touch with their friends. Furthermore, this new way of staying connected enabled units across the area to share sessions and engage better. Southern Area Sea Cadets were able to offer modules including Marine Engineering, Meteorology, and navigation. As part of this digital transformation, the funding enabled their young people to qualify for prestigious awards such as ‘The British Science Association flagship programme’ and the CREST award, where young people as young as nine can participate in the opportunities offered through STEM subjects. Cellnex UK’s support will, over the product life of the equipment supplied, enable c.12,500 cadets to receive c.18,800 qualifications. Watch the video here.
Additionally, Cellnex UK is also now working with The UK Community Foundations (UKCF), a national network of 46 community foundations, connecting people and organisations that are improving their communities. UKCF is tackling the most significant issues facing communities today and supporting some of society’s most disadvantaged people. Together we are looking to help six rural Community Foundations: Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Wales, and North and East Yorkshire – all areas with the highest levels of digital exclusion according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Digital inclusion isn’t only about whether people can access the Internet: it’s also about their ability to use it. According to a 2020 report, in the UK, an estimated 9 million people (16%) cannot use the Internet or their device by themselves. Also, an estimated 11.7 million (22%) people are without the digital skills needed for everyday life. Digital exclusion can deepen poverty, making it harder to earn, save on essentials, and get access to help and support – especially in lockdown. The need to bring together digital skills and inclusion with practical help, has increased dramatically since the COVID-19 crisis. With UKCF, Cellnex UK is involved directly with communities to help connect people and is striving to reduce digital inequalities throughout the UK.