‘Levelling up’ health, education, and economic opportunities, for UK communities is an important part of the Government’s plans for a better future. For levelling up to be meaningful, it must be accompanied by equal access to affordable connectivity, says Liverpool 5G Create.
Liverpool 5G Create is a 7.2 million DCMS-funded project, part of the (5G Testbeds and Trials Programme.) Committed to reducing the digital divide and delivering life-changing public-sector technologies, the project has built one of the largest 5G private public sector networks in Europe. The Government’s Levelling up the United Kingdom White Paper, says ‘The UK has larger geographical differences than many other developed countries on multiple measures, including productivity, pay, educational attainment and health.’ (i) Liverpool is a city impacted by these differences. Liverpool 5G believes that getting digital equality in place, will help the city ‘level up’ meaningfully as many of our learning, health, and community services will be delivered online in the future.
Project Director, Rosemary Kay, explains: “The pandemic led to an increase in remote services, highlighting the impact of digital poverty on health inequalities, and the need for equal access to technology across different communities. However, investment in people’s health and education needs to be a long-term commitment. Providing affordable connectivity for children in every community – enabling them to home school or do their homework – will help the Government achieve longer-term targets around training, employment and improved well-being.
“Liverpool 5G supports Liverpool’s own levelling up ambitions as Councillor Frazer Lake, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health, Liverpool City Council, explains: “Liverpool’s Local Plan lists ‘social value’ as a key marker for improving living standards in the region. Liverpool 5G is certainly delivering that as it offers a sustainable solution for many. People often don’t access the public services they need because they can’t afford data and connectivity charges; what they can afford gives them unreliable connectivity. For levelling up to be successful, we need to support innovative and affordable models for delivering digital services.”
Liverpool 5G Create offers services that need connectivity, to volunteers from the Kensington community, with no charge to them for the connectivity. The project is able to do this because the 5G ‘network-of-networks’ operates using the council owned assets to provide a network that incorporates LoRaWAN, Wifi and cellular 5G. The volunteers are trialling life-changing technologies including: 5G- supported GP surgeries; medical monitoring; fall prevention sensors; home schooling support; urine monitoring; AI-supported wound management; and Chill Panda, an anti-anxiety game for children, on wearables.
A recent addition to Liverpool 5G Create’s technologies came about from a collaboration with Eden Universe – another DCMS-funded 5G project at Cornwall’s Eden Project. Residents at Liverpool’s Rowan Garth Care Home have been using 5G-supported VR headsets and iPads to sample a virtual day out at The Eden Project – enjoying specially curated video content. Sarah Chapple, Activities Co-ordinator at Rowan Garth, explains: “Our residents have loved the experience of exploring The Eden Project from our care home. One resident, Dennis, said to me ‘Sarah, this is amazing. I’ll never get the chance to visit Cornwall or The Eden Project, but this is the next best thing.’ Other residents, using iPads have been able to explore the video content on screen, helping them become more confident on an iPad and giving them a virtual mini-adventure from their own front room.”
Liverpool 5G’s unique model of delivery offers the same benefits as a Mobile Network Operators (MNO): connectivity, data-support, and low latency, but at an affordable price for the public sector who do not have to pay data costs. The team doesn’t manage a legacy of older technologies, 3G and 4G, like other providers. This gives them agility and the ability to deliver a better service level agreement than is commercially available, vital for health and social care use cases.