Helping communities connect to digital services and more

Decorative banner

This page brings together a range of resources to support councils in their efforts to help communities access digital council services - and the internet more broadly - wherever they are in the community.

Resources and support

Case studies

Greater Manchester Combined Authority - Local Full Fibre Networks Programme

In March 2020, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) secured a world-class digital infrastructure through biggest government full-fibre investment in the UK.  Virgin Media Business were appointed to carry out the work with plans in place to install 2,700km of new fibre optic broadband infrastructure across the region. Through the £23.8m funding from central government (plus other local authority funds), the Local Full Fibre Networks Programme aimed to connect more than 1,500 public sites across the city-region.

This was the result of close partnership working between GMCA, Greater Manchester’s local authorities, Fire & Rescue Services and Transport for Greater Manchester and was backed by millions of pounds of funding from central government.

This new investment, plus existing local authority investments in digital infrastructure, makes this the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Networks Programme and will underpin a wide range of digital transformation and smart city projects.

When securing the bid, GMCA understood the importance of region wide economic and social value benefits. The scale of this project was only realised beyond the securement of the funding. Originally, the project priorities focussed a lot on filling gaps of connectivity, over time this significantly grew into bringing all local authorities together.

Stakeholder engagement was a key part of the programme’s success. A huge amount of work and 1:1 sessions with IT, economic development and finance leads through looking at the whole package and working closely with each of Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities, Transport for Greater Manchester and the Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership, supporting these organisations in developing their own bespoke business cases to reflect their own local and organisational assets. Improved connectivity with multidisciplinary teams and join up networks have always existed, but the focus was needed to allow the investments to succeed.

Despite the challenges of Covid-19, with work due to start as the UK’s first national lockdown was announced, rapid progress has been made and a recent report shows significant local economic benefits of the work to date with £19.7m of overall local economic value (direct and indirect) by the close of the programme. And by the end of the programme, a total of 17 public sites in Greater Manchester– including homeless shelters, charities, and community centres, were benefiting from free fibre broadband connectivity until 2025. Other social value benefits have included:

  • 38 new Greater Manchester based apprenticeship opportunities – 90% ahead of original target
  • Exceeded local employment target, with an average 78% of the LFFN workforce based in Greater Manchester
  • Supported the Greater Manchester Technology Fund. The fund provides learners at risk of digital isolation with the technology and connectivity needed to continue their learning at home
  • Virgin Media staff have volunteered over 1,000 hours across Greater Manchester

Communications has been a key driver in the success of the programme. A toolkit was created to ensure that accessible information was available to all local authorities and stakeholders across the region. Elements of social value are emphasised in the communications that are shared, allowing the information to become more humanised and relevant to the intended audiences understanding of the project and its purpose. The toolkit is updated every two months and shared with relevant communication leads from all stakeholders involved, and project leads within each local authority area, encouraging them to issue their own localised communication.

GMCA feel that their communications method and approach has been so successful not only due to the various campaigns and press releases, but also the investment in time and promotion in the topic from those involved and stakeholders from across the region which have illustrated clear positive outcomes in the programmes development. 

The programme featured on ITV Granada Reports, with a feature at Deeplish Community Centre, one of the 17 community sites gifted free connectivity.

“The free fibre broadband at Deeplish Community Centre is improving people’s prospects and breaking down digital exclusion barriers made worse during the pandemic. Without the improved connectivity at our site, many in our community would be locked out of today’s digital society.

Instead, more than 500 local people can now get online for free at our centre, learning new skills: from online banking, to using digital tools to support the language barrier we have in our community – or even young people visiting the site to complete their homework. Thanks to the programme, we’re seeing improved wellbeing and new prospects for our people.” Operations Manager at the centre, Sohail Ahmad

This LFFN programme across Greater Manchester is the most successful example across all regions in England. The city region continues to commit and design world class connectivity and infrastructure for all of its population. For more information on this programme, visit the GMCA's webpage

Leicestershire County Council - Assistive technology programme

Leicestershire County Council, in partnership with five local district and borough councils (Charnwood, Blaby, North West Leicestershire, Hinckley and Bosworth, Oadby and Wigston) are launching a pilot project for 50 individuals to participate in an assistive technology scheme to help people with dementia live at home independently for longer. 

The council has selected MySense Ltd as the supplier for this pilot to deliver the service. It will be delivered through an Internet of Things (IoT) gateway installed into the participant’s home to monitor certain aspects of the individual’s daily routine and activities. The information collected is transferred and collated to a dashboard available to the Council and also on an App for close friend or family member of the individual to view.  

The information collected by the gateway is gathered from sensors that are located throughout the house to identify movement or activity. For instance, sensors  measure when the bathroom door is opened, or the fridge was accessed. The scheme also provides a smart plug that connects to the kettle so it can indicate when it has been used.  The MySense product includes a sleep sensor fitted under the mattress, to identify sleeping patterns and a wearable device that monitors heart rate and steps.

The pattern of behaviour for the individual are learnt by the system, which allows for issues of concern to be identified as well as a timeline of activity. Those with access to the App and dashboard will receive an overview of daily patterns and will be notified immediately via text of any alerts. This notification system will provide real time information if certain patterns have been disrupted, to ensure the individual is living as safely and independently as possible at home.

The pilot was launched in October and will be delivered for the next 6 months, after which the Council will look to evaluate the success and impact of the scheme on those taking part. The evaluation will survey carers, friends and families about the scheme and the Councils will review the data and outcomes over the 6 month period.

Contact: Katy Griffith Project Manager – Assistive Technology