No one can be blamed for wanting to move on from the hardship that was brought on by the pandemic over the last two years. But as we do so, we should learn lessons from the resilience and innovation shown in communities in response to the health crisis.
One of the clearest examples of this is the adoption of technology that enabled families to continue to learn, work and socialise. As a result of the pandemic 1.3 million laptops and tablets were delivered to disadvantaged young people and digital connectivity was shown to be fundamental.
We should not abandon this progress as we seek face to face connection once more. Not least because virtual participation presents huge opportunities to help children and workers overcome the barriers that are presented by a lack of provision in their local area. So much so that rolling out gigabit broadband and 5G coverage is now a central mission of the Government’s levelling up agenda.
But Ministers should be going further, to explore how we can use the experience of home working as the impetus to innovate. Virtual participation can enable young people in a small rural town to experience work in a London central office, without travelling, if they want to. It can also open up educational opportunities, as pupils can access world class teaching resources regardless of the quality of schools in their area.
This panel will look at the role technology can play in boosting social mobility, and attempt to explore what more can be done to widen opportunity without uprooting people from the place they grew up.