Next Tuesday (28th January) I’ll be sitting in a television studio at The Stock Exchange debating, live on the internet, the theme of Redefining the Digital Divide. The webinar is at 10am GMT to enable people living in earlier time zones to tune in, and I was told yesterday people from all of the world have already registered to watch. It’s interesting that the panel will be linking up with thousands of people around the world using the power of the internet and at the same time talk about the millions who are not benefiting from the web. Those millions – 11 million in the UK without basic online skills, and 4.8 billion people in globally who have never used the internet.
We live in a world where the majority of the global population haven’t used the internet: around a third has and two thirds haven’t. (See World Internet Stats for details.) There is an ever-increasing need to ensure citizens and businesses have the access, skills and motivation to take advantage of technology. Because if they don’t, entire countries will suffer from the digital divide.
Back in September last year I was asked to contribute to a report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit about my views on how we can drive an accelerated increase in basic online skills across the globe. You can find the ‘Redefining the digital divide’ report here, and if you haven’t read it yet I recommend it. It looks at the parameters of the problem, lessons from around the world, compares the strategies of different countries in addressing the digital divide and lays out the challenges ahead of us.
As a follow up to the report I have been invited to the London Stock Exchange to take part in that webinar to discuss these issues in more depth next week. Hosted by the Economist and chaired by Denis McCauley, Editorial Director of the Economist Intelligence Unit, I will be joined on the panel by:
Lord Young, the Prime Minister’s adviser on Business & Enterprise
Tim Watkins, Vice President of Huawei Western Europe
and Clive Richardson, Director of Policy at Go ON UK.
We will be talking about how we can provide people with the skills they need to cross the divide. It’s interesting that this debate is being led by The Economist, who recently published an article “Coming to an office near you” that told us the effect of today’s technology on tomorrow’s jobs will be immense—and no country is ready for it. It’s good to have this new voice in the debate, saying that technological innovation won’t feel better for everyone in the short term.
Digital inclusion, people and pipes, impact and partnership, are all things I’m passionate about, and I’m very much looking forward to next week’s discussion. While I’m always going to favour new action over old debate, this is a chance to really take a look at ourselves in a global context, improve our understanding of what is an ever-fluctuating issue, and agree on some clear and possible actions.
You can watch via The Economist website, and you can join the conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag #digitaldivide. Why not put 10 – 11 am GMT in your diary for Tuesday 28th January and watch the panel debate on your laptop or tablet from the comfort of your own office or armchair, and interact via twitter.