The time is now to bridge the digital divide

Written by Helen Milner on 28 November 2018 in Opinion

Eliminating digital exclusion would reduce inequality and give the economy a multibillion-pound boost, according to Helen Milner of Good Things Foundation

Credit: Debivort/CC BY-SA 3.0

The UK government is a world leader in digital government. And, with more and more services moving to digital platforms to save money and increase efficiency, the digital literacy needed to use these services is not keeping pace. By 2028, at current rates of progress, 12% of the British population will still be digitally excluded. 

This means that they will lack the skills needed to operate in our digital world. From a practical, economic and moral perspective, this is unacceptable. For government to maintain its status as a world leader – and to ensure that no-one is left behind – digital inclusion must be a top priority in the UK’s digital strategy.

I believe everyone in the UK should have the confidence, skills, support and access to use digital technology to participate in society and benefit from the digital world. And I think we need to move faster towards realising this aim.

At Good Things Foundation, we know how important being digitally included is, and how exclusion from the digital world can lead to powerful negative impacts on people’s lives. A lack of digital skills and confidence can reinforce poorer health and a lower life expectancy, can increase loneliness and social isolation and can act as a barrier to jobs and education.  

Related content

As a charity, we help people to gain the digital skills that they need to lead better lives. This means working with those facing the greatest challenges: unemployment; poverty; homelessness; and diability – all of which are more likely for those facing digital exclusion. 

Since 2010, we have helped support 2.6 million people to gain digital skills, of whom 82% face one or more types of social exclusion.

Ignoring digital exclusion is not an option, whether you are in local or national government, the private sector, or civil society. It is a critical issue of our times.

Barring people from the digital world simply reinforces existing inequality, adding to an already widening gap in life chances. And digital skills bring tangible benefits – including confidence, connection, wellbeing and the opportunity to learn – to people who need it the most.

Neither is this just an issue for individual people. Everyone in the UK will benefit from a country that prioritises digital skills. Our research has found that upskilling the entire population in digital skills would add over £22bn to the UK economy within 10 years. With the future of the UK economy uncertain, prioritising digital inclusion is an important protective step. 

We are putting digital skills at the top of the agenda with our campaign #BridgingtheDigitalDivide. Through this we are calling on government and organisations to pledge that everyone in the UK should be online by 2028. Partners so far include Lloyds Banking Group, Google, BT and more – but we need more organisations, sectors and individuals to recognise the importance of digital skills and pledge their support.

To lay the foundations for continuing action and co-ordination across sectors, we have published a Blueprint for a 100% Digitally Included Nation.

It lays out the six steps we believe are needed to achieve digital literacy for all:

1. Set a bold ambition: agree a goal of a 100% digitally included nation by 2028
2. Drive motivation: promote the benefits of the internet
3. Build skills: provide free essential digital skills support for everyone who needs it
4. Lead from the front: employers taking responsibility for their own employees
5. Make it affordable: ensure no-one is denied access to the digital world because of their personal income
6. Make digital a social priority: bring social inclusion and digital inclusion together

In a world where digital skills are as important as Maths or English, we have to make sure no one is left behind. For the sake of our citizens and of our economy, the time is now to make the UK the first 100% digitally included country in the world. 

About the author

Helen Milner is chief executive of Good Things Foundation, a social change charity dedicated to helping people improve their lives through digital. 


Share this page




Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

Can the GDS innovation strategy deliver a lasting legacy for government?
14 August 2019

Government's new Innovation Strategy set out ambitious proposals to update processes, eliminate ageing kit, and embrace emerging technologies. PublicTechnology caught up with...

Start-ups can show the way to public sector transformation
27 August 2019

Hanna Johnson of tech accelerator Public believes that transforming citizen services will require government to adopt new ways of buying and using technology

Concern and confusion grows over settled status scheme
23 August 2019

With free movement now set to end abruptly on 31 October, Home Office remains unable to answer key questions

Related Sponsored Articles

Digital Transformation: Connecting and protecting with perfect predictability
10 September 2019

How can you stay ahead in the fast-paced world of digital technology? BT describes how it's a matter of focus... 

How to stay ahead of a changing threat landscape
3 September 2019

The security threat landscape is confusing and changing rapidly – there’s so much out there, how do you understand where the true risks are? BT offers insight from their own experience

The cyber security skills challenge: Hiring for tomorrow
27 August 2019

Organisations must alter their approach to cyber security recruitment in order to combat the global shortage of security professionals, writes BT 

Augmented Intelligence: digital transformation with humans in the loop
20 August 2019

BT reviews an event looking at how man and machine are working together to drive digital transformation