Adding up to everyone

Back in 2010, Martha Lane Fox commissioned PWC to produce a report on the economic impact of digital inclusion. The Manifesto for a Networked Nation became the cornerstone of digital and social policy development. 

Today, Race Online 2012’s successor Charity Go ON UK have launched another seminal report – This is for everyone – again bringing together cross sector data to provide a socio-economic case for digitising the UK. I hope – again – that it’s going to shape future attitudes, decisions and investment. 

The figures here are compelling. The key number is the estimation that the UK could have increased annual national GDP by up to £63 billion if it had achieved global leadership as a digitally ‘mature’ country.  This maturity is defined with a complex matrix but amounts to a combination of digital infrastructure, online services, advanced human capital (educating the next generation of Berners-Lees – from whom the This is for everyone quote is taken) and usage (getting everyone engaged in the online world).   

It turns out that digital strategies are rather like buses, actually, because This is for everyone follows hot on the heels of this weeks’ Government Digital Strategy, which sets out how government will redesign its digital services to make them so straightforward and convenient that all those who can use them will prefer to do so.  While this provides action plan detail, the potential impact of improved government services is one of the strands which makes up Go ON UK’s £63 billion.  

The report is in fact broken down into several chapters, looking at Individuals – enhancing health, wealth and wellbeing in society, Enterprises – supercharging the economy by putting even the smallest of SMEs online, Charities – using technology to make a bigger impact for less, and Government – achieving universal digitisation for both services and citizens (already in hand in the GDS plan). 

Under each heading the numbers are equally fascinating  –  if not more so because they’re small enough to be comprehensible!  As you’ll see from my previous blog, I’ve recently been doing some of my own maths, based on the economic impact of UK online centres case studies.  This is for everyone cleverly ties economics with politics and social reform, looking at the potential of technology to improve education and pupil achievement, get people into work, and reduce social isolation and mental health issues for older people. 

Did you know, for instance, that 9 out of 10 students improve their grades when online learning is blended with traditional classroom work? Or that regular usage of the internet by people over the age of 50 can reduce depression by 20-28%?  Reading on we find that only one in three British SMEs sell their products online, 20% of charities have no digital presence at all, and less than half of central public services have been placed online.  For a stats-nerd like me, this is heady stuff – I actually had to have a little sit down.  

Each of these stats has an economic impact that adds up to that £63 billion. To start realising some of that lost potential, the report recommends that the UK needs to continue to build its digital foundations – the pipes, the platforms and the programmers. However, the more pressing need is identified as People – music, of course, to my ears. As Martha says in her introduction to the Report: “The lack of basic digital skills for millions means “digitisation” is unbalanced—we will increasingly fall short of the UK.’s potential if we do not start to address the problem.”

The fact is that to make sure this really is for everyone, and to ensure technology really does give the nation the lift this report dangles tantalisingly before our eyes, we’re going to need every single hand on deck. I for one am looking forward to getting stuck in. 

Read the full report here – highly recommended!

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