This blog has been a little quiet for a week or so, because I’ve been off on my summer holidays! Okay, I’ve done a bit of work, but it’s been a lovely break, and I started back with a bang last week as a witness at the House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills.
It was a two day investigation into the digital competitiveness of the UK, but on day two, the committee focussed it’s interest on digital inclusion, and their support for this agenda was fantastic.
At one point Lord Kirkwood even said that he thought there would be rioting in the streets if we didn’t get this stuff sorted out! I’m not entirely sure digital inclusion is set to trigger full scale revolution (and I think he was perhaps referring to social reform more widely) but it was great to see how well the issues were understood, and how passionate the committee was to find and support solutions.
The committee was led by Baroness Morgan of Huyton, and my fellow witnesses included David Hughes from NIACE, Martin Weller from the open University, James Thickett from Ofcom, Patrick Barwise from London Business School, and Phil Fearnley from the BBC. Together we laid out the picture of digital inclusion, those affected, the barriers, the challenges, what works and what doesn’t.
They were very interested in Tinder Foundation’s work and experience, and in the role local UK online centres play in engaging and supporting hard-to-reach communities. I was very clear in expressing the need for investment, and the challenges community and voluntary sector organisations face in doing more to support vulnerable people (in multiple ways), for considerably less funding. Providing support for hyperlocal organisations to engage “people like me” in the communities is essential, and organisations like mine can bring the networked effect of coordinating and supporting this hyperlocal action with tools and online courses as well as leadership.
I quoted our Nation 2020 Report: A Leading Digital Nation by 2020 – Calculating the cost of delivering online skills for all and pointed out that the Government can afford to make a much bigger investment in solving digital exclusion over the next five year. And, that they can’t afford not to.
If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you can find out more about the Digital Skills Committee here, and watch the full recording of evidence here.
Now they’ve got the evidence, the question is of course what they plan to do with that knowledge. I for one look forward to seeing this formidable and highly engaged group of Lords and Ladies take up this mantel. Interesting times ahead.