Eastserve in ProjectsEmail to a friend
Popular perception held that deprivation and social exclusion went hand-in-hand in East Manchester. Eastserve, one of Manchester City Council’s (MCC) flagship projects in the New Deal for Communities was set up to challenge this view and to underpin regeneration of one of the UK’s most deprived urban areas.
Back in 1999 in Geneva, UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan stated, “Today, being cut off from basic telecommunications services is a hardship almost as acute as a lack of jobs, shelter, food, health care and drinkable water.” In East Manchester, where engineering and cotton spearheaded the Industrial Revolution, this digital divide manifested itself in the form of unemployment at over 15%, around three times higher than the national average. The collapse of traditional industries left East Manchester in a state of dereliction with indicators of deprivation resembling a third world state. ICT was seen as a catalyst to crime reduction, to improvements in health, literacy and educational attainment and as an aid to programmes improving the physical environment and tackling poor housing.
PHASE 1 - The Basics
The creation of a virtual town hall – a website with local services was commenced. Access was aided through the subsidised distribution of 350 recycled computers and setting up of 10 community free internet Access points
PHASE 2 – Moving Into Homes & Weaving Into Community
“Wired Up Communities” funded further 3,500 computers; new machines costing £200 and recycled £50. Installation, delivery and 3 months dial-up connection were included free in the package along with 3 hours introductory training. The local Credit Union provided immediate low cost loans and 9 local ICT Learning Centres were set up together with a low cost computer repair service. Since 25% of local residents did not have a landline telephone, a wireless broadband network was developed offering affordable broadband access from £6 monthly without any contract or hidden costs.
Phase 3 – EXPANSION WIRELESS NETWORK AND HELPING THE DISABLED
Network coverage was more than doubled and a further 1700 PC packages supplied. Support for the disabled and the elderly were added into the resident’s service bundle, whilst wireless networking linked homes, schools and ICT Learning Centres.
With over 5,500 PC packages distributed and over 2,000 regular broadband customers in December 2006, Eastserve has developed into the largest wireless network in Europe.
Surveys conducted in East Manchester reveal:-
- Broadband access grew from 2% in 2001 to 25% in 2005 and overall 75% of residents have internet access.
- PC ownership increased from 19% in 2001 to 52% in 2005%.
- 57% of residents identified access to online services through Eastserve as beneficial, highlighting improved communication with family and their community.
Crucially unemployment in East Manchester is now a third of what it was in 1999 and below the national average
Eastserve’s own surveys reveal:-
- Over 650 reports in the last 9 months to it’s Anonymous Crime Reporting service.
- In excess of 12,500 enquiries since 2004 to the Eastserve Interactive Jobs Database; growing from 300 per month in early 2005 to a current level of around 1,000 per month. During 2004 over 16% of respondents to the database gained employment and a further 8% were helped to source job applications.
- Following the introductory training, 62% of respondents went on to undertake further training and 44% of these obtained a recognised qualification.
- EastServe’s low cost repairs helped over 10% of residents with IT hardware and software problems in the last 12 months
Eastserve’s horizons are expanding beyond East Manchester into new residential areas, to support business customers and through consultancy services. Eastserve’s service model is not about superior cutting edge technology. It’s about delivering a service package to hard to reach people who might otherwise be excluded. It’s also about making those services transparent, delivering and supporting and de-mystifying the technology!