Tackling Digital Inequality in the United Kingdom

Ishita Uppadhayay

The national lockdowns and associated mobility restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a substantial shift in the digital sphere. Consumers and businesses going digital, online education, and telemedicine have seen an unprecedented growth globally. Prior to this U-turn, digitalisation has already transformed society by powering rapid changes in economic activities and employment opportunities as digital access has become essential to using public services or participating as an active agent in the economy.

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Are we living in a world of de-globalisation? 

Alainah Amer 

Recent trends are expecting the global economy to move away from interdependence between nations to weaker interconnectivity, localised policies, and enhanced border controls, a phenomenon also referred to as ‘de-globalisation’. With the catastrophic impact of the global financial crisis, the rise of protectionism, exemplified by the US and China engaging in a trade war, and the implementation of Brexit, there are widespread concerns amongst economists that de-globalisation is a force that is here to stay. COVID-19 has further exacerbated these concerns. The ongoing pandemic has uncovered the vulnerable roots of globalisation illustrated by a sharp fall in global GDP, plunging levels in international trade, the decline of foreign direct investment, the vast disruptions of global value chains and lastly, higher unemployment rates. These trajectories seem to prove that globalisation comes with severe risks – which have the tendency to spread like wildfire. This begs the question of whether globalisation might actually be a ‘bad’ thing.

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Education in times of Covid-19: Challenges and Opportunities

On February 10th, 2021, the Education Policy Centre hosted an event to discuss the impacts of Covid-19 on the English schooling system and its approaches to creativity. Considering the multidimensional nature of creativity, the event afforded a broad understanding of the word as well as a specific reference to the arts. The event’s title “Education in times of Covid-19: Challenges and Opportunities” served as a springboard for two experts, Professor Catherine Boyle and Laura Mcinerney, to share their insights and experiences in their respective field.

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European waters and migration during the pandemic

As a French citizen studying in the UK, encounters with migrants while traveling across the English Channel have become a regular experience. Whether you take the Eurostar from Calais to Dover or the boat from Ouistreham to Portsmouth, you cannot ignore the reality of their situation, especially during the pandemic. One memory will always remain with me: I arrived by car at the harbour of Ouistreham when suddenly a group of migrants started chasing after the lorry ahead of us. They tried to jump on it and, unsuccessfully, attempted to open the back door of the lorry. This shocked me and at that moment I felt privileged. I had a passport and the right to legally cross the border. Meanwhile, they were illegal immigrants attempting something incredibly dangerous to be able to lead a better life. I was unable to help them and felt embarrassed that this was happening in a European country like France. But this is the reality of the lives of many migrants attempting to cross the borders to European countries.

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From anti-mask to anti-state: Anti-lockdown protests, conspiracy thinking and the risk of radicalization

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier declared the attempt at violently occupying the Reichstag, the German parliament building, by far-right activists on 29 August 2020, as a direct attack on Germany’s very “heart of democracy,”. Demonstrations against state-imposed Covid-19 measures have been on the rise in many countries throughout the pandemic. Observers are now worried that extremist hate groups are using pandemic-related protests to advance their political goals – violently if necessary. Since December 2020, members of the Querdenken 711 group, the main organizer of nationwide anti-Covid restriction protests in Germany, are on an intelligence  “watch-list due to its increasing radicalisation”

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Covid-19 Vaccines: Misinformation and Hesitancy

Despite the recent progress with the rollout of Covid-19 vaccination programmes, many mistruths circulating online have, in turn, had an impact on willingness to receive the vaccine. Unfortunately, this does not come as a big surprise. The ‘anti vax’ movement has been causing havoc for years by standing in opposition to vaccinating against disease, calling into question the safety of vaccines and circulating conspiracy theories surrounding the practice of vaccination itself. Although this kind of ideology has been around as long as vaccination itself, the accessibility of the internet coupled with the rise in use of social media in recent years provides the perfect breeding ground for such material. Vaccine hesitancy, a term which describes rejection or slow acceptance of vaccination, in relation to Covid-19 may not come as a surprise, but it is an issue worthy of attention as vaccination is our ticket out of the pandemic. 

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The Impact of Covid-19 School Closures on Children and Parents’ Mental Wellbeing

With schools having reopened their doors on March 8th, concerns have been raised that Britain’s school children now face a serious mental health crisis. British paediatricians have warned that they are witnessing an “acute and rapid increase in mental health and safeguarding cases”, with anxiety, depression and self-harm amongst young people rising to worrying levels. Parents have also been reported to be suffering psychological stress and breakdowns due to the pressures of managing their child’s remote learning whilst trying to sustain their own jobs. The Lancet has found that single parent families in particular, have the highest levels of self-reported stress. Gingerbread, the UK’s leading charity for single parents, stresses that the impact of dealing with the financial and practical pressures of Covid, whilst also having the sole responsibility for managing their child’s physical and mental health can be very overwhelming. 

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Covid-19 and the BAME community: Does It Affect Us All The Same?

When asked in late September about what the end of the year may look like for the United Kingdom Professor Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical advisor, bleakly answered “we have a long winter ahead of us”. However, will this continue to be a long winter for all of us, or will this be disproportionately longer for certain groups within the UK? 

With a series of protracted lockdowns that have been on and off for the past few months, this question is increasingly relevant. It has been well documented that the COVID-19 pandemic did not affect all populations and communities equally. For example, the most significant findings from early reports during the first peak suggested that the BAME community had a greater proportion of hospital deaths compared to White British groups. Using reports by Public Health England (PHE) and by the Labour party, this article investigates whether the UK government has a plan to protect the BAME community during the remainder of the winter as previous evidence has shown gaps in the solutions proposed. 

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The unseen challenges of refugee youth in the face of COVID-19

The lockdown period in the UK has variably affected different groups in the country. One group consistently overlooked has been refugees and refugee children, in particular. Official figures state that there are 126,720 refugees in the UK, of which 10,295 are children. Prior to the pandemic, refugee children were already in an unfavourable position in society that affected their access to education, with many schools unwilling to allow their enrolment over fears that they would have an adverse impact on schools’ academic performance and their positions in league tables.

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Should the COVID-19 Vaccine become a Global Public Good?

When the inventor of the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk, was asked who owns his discovery, he responded, ‘the people. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?’

As we enter the second year of COVID-19, various pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Novavax have completed their final round of vaccine trials at a record pace, and the roll out in some countries has now begun. Despite this being a cause for hope as we finally start to see some light at the end of the long COVID tunnel, the world has started to witness the phenomenon of ‘vaccine nationalism,’ which may hinder the global battle against the pandemic. Such a term is used to define the actions taken by governments of wealthy countries, who have signed direct deals with pharmaceutical companies in order to receive first access to billions of COVID-19 vaccine doses for their own populations. In doing so, these countries restrict the access to vaccines for other states.

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