A Digital Skills Partnership for everyone

In March the government launched the UK Digital Strategy which, amongst many other things, puts focus on giving everyone access to the digital skills they need to participate in and benefit from today’s digital world. An exciting part of the strategy was the announcement that the government would be establishing a new Digital Skills Partnership Board and I was thrilled when I was asked to be a part of it.

Last week I attended the first meeting of the Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) Board with lots of familiar faces, including Liz Williams (Chair of Good Things Foundation’s board – there with her BT Tech Literacy hat on) and Nick Williams (whom we have worked with as part of our partnership with Lloyds Banking Group). The meeting was co-hosted by Matt Hancock MP and Phil Smith (of Tech Partnership and Cisco) and the first thing that really jumped out at me was the ambition in the room. Everyone in attendance really believes in the cause and are determined and focussed to get things done. The people around that table want real collaboration and real action – like I’ve said in the past, we can achieve more together and by working as a team, the goal of achieving a digital nation seems much more realistic.

Thinking (too) big?

At Good Things Foundation, through the Online Centres Network, we focus on helping adults to develop basic digital skills and confidence. This is a tried and tested model – it works. So although I left the meeting feeling very positive about what we’re aiming for, one thing that did worry me was the scale of the scope. The DSP Board covers all digital skills at all levels – from high tech industries to skills and inclusion – and for all ages – from kids to adults. Of course, I want us to develop a world-leading digital economy so if the people on the Board can represent and can cover this breadth, I’m there to help achieve that.

Local is the way forward

On another note, I’m glad that they’re thinking local – looking to pilot local Digital Skills Partnerships. Local ownership and local planning with some national coordination and support is a positive approach. We’re working with some Local Authorities, we are leading a project with Salford City Council to bring digital skills to 7,800 people across the city, and last week in Sheffield I gave a lightning talk to the digital leaders across the city who want to help make Sheffield a key digital place to live and to do business.

Let’s get going

It was the first meeting of the DSP Board, so it’s still early days yet. I’m keen to see the sub-groups of the Board feeding in. Good Things Foundation has a presence here too through our Director of Digital Inclusion Adam Micklethwaite who recently attended both of these working groups on local pilots and national coherence, advising DCMS officials on their input to the DSP Board.

One thing that can be said about this first meeting was that it felt like there was a real belief in the room that the UK can be a world leader in digital. We have a skilled nation already and we have more than the foundations of the digital infrastructure in place.

All we have to do is make sure we leave no one behind.

You can read Matt Hancock (the Digital Minister’s) blog about it here.

Six things you don’t want to miss at this year’s Digital Evolution conference

I’ll soon be back from Australia – thankfully, just in time for our annual Digital Evolution conference. For me, this is a highlight of the year as not only do I get to meet inspirational and knowledgeable members of the Online Centres Network, but it’s also a great opportunity to catch-up with partners and stakeholders from the various different organisations we work with.

I’m looking forward to the whole event but here are six things in particular that I really can’t wait for.

Design differently

Since we established our new Design and Innovation Directorate in April, they’ve been helping the Good Things Foundation team to do things differently. This includes everything from designing interventions for some of our hardest to reach users, to helping us work more efficiently as a team together. Now, we want to share these new approaches with you, to help you discover new and exciting ways to tackle digital and social exclusion in your community. We’ll be talking about quick techniques used by some of the most successful organisations in the world – something you really don’t want to miss.

Celebrity guests

For the past two years, our conference has been chaired by the wonderful Maggie Philbin OBE, and we’re delighted she is chairing the conference again this year. Maggie is the co-founder and CEO of TeenTech CIC and has presented for the BBC, including on TV shows that I love such as Tomorrow’s World and Bang Goes the Theory. She’s always interested in hearing about how people are using digital for good and I just know, as always, that she will be a wonderful addition to the conference agenda.

Industry experts

We’re welcoming a great variety of speakers who are all bringing something unique to the table. The conference will cover a range of themes, including the power of technology for good and how we can achieve a stronger Britain through digital, so I’m sure you’ll unearth plenty of questions and ideas to discuss with fellow delegates during the day – and afterwards.

A problem shared is a problem halved

The conference is a great opportunity to meet other Online Centres and those working in the fields of digital and social inclusion. We’re all in this together as a big club with a shared vision, so whether you’re meeting over a coffee or a sandwich, or if you simply get chatting to the person you’re sitting next to, it’s a great opportunity to make new contacts, share new ideas and get some advice to help you tackle any problems or issues you may be facing.

Our showcase session

We’ve brought together three very knowledgeable individuals to really get into the nitty-gritty of digital and social inclusion and tell us how those two things are so very closely linked: our COO & Director of Social Inclusion Charlotte Murray; Good Things Foundation board member and programme lead at Starting Point Online Centre, Nicola Wallace Dean; and Amy O’Donnell, ICT in Programme Lead from Oxfam. This is sure to be a thought-provoking session and one not to be missed.

Raise a toast with us

And sixth, I’m really looking forward to our post-conference drinks reception. Those who have attended previous Digital Evolutions will know that we usually have a pre-conference event or an unconference. This year, we’re doing things differently hosting this informal gathering at the BT Centre after the event. This is a great opportunity to mingle with those who you haven’t yet spoken to and with the drinks included in the price of your ticket, it’s certainly a less stressful alternative to pushing your way through the busy London rush hour, and helps that hanging around for the off-peak tickets home.

See you there 🙂

Sold? Book your tickets now.

Making good things happen in Australia

I’ve been spending the last few weeks in Australia and this week was a big one. Christian Porter, Minister for Social Services, launched the Be Connected programme on Wednesday; he said: “Be Connected is another important step towards the Government’s goal to foster digital skills, access, and inclusion to empower everyone to thrive in a digital world.” We care about this as we’re working with the Australian Government to grow a digital inclusion movement for older people all across Australia. There is a great video about the programme you can take a look at here.

The last couple of months have been a bit of a whirlwind for me and the team – both in the UK and in Australia. It’s felt at times like we’re working for a start-up – meeting very important people in Canberra one day and getting phone lines installed, buying stationary and moving office furniture around the next. Of course, we’ve been working hard, meeting hundreds of new partners – national partners, state partners, and many, many local partners. And we’ve been getting used to our new policy and sector landscape and partners in Australia.

We’re excited to be working with the other Be Connected partners – the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and we’re learning lots from them.



Me with new director Jess Wilson at the Online Safety – On the Edge conference


Looking back over the few months, I’m amazed at how much we’ve achieved; recruiting a team, including a great new Director Jess Wilson, holding nine events, meeting over 200 people and growing our network, which is now over 400 organisations strong.

I’ve met so many enthusiastic people, who are already having a huge impact on supporting older Australians to improve their digital skills and who are brilliant members of the network.

None of what we’ve done in Australia would be possible without the experience we’ve gained through running the Online Centres Network in the UK, and I’m proud that the UK government has been so forward-thinking in investing in a network which is now being replicated internationally.

The impact we’ve had in the UK has been amazing, as showcased at our 2 millionth Learner Awards earlier this year, and I’m already ambitiously planning on having a similar impact in Australia.

We’ve got exciting plans for the coming months, as we’ll be growing the network further, going out across the country to meet lots more people, and building many more partnerships that will help Good Things Foundation Australia to grow. Our mission is a world where everyone benefits from digital – and that’s just what we’re planning on making happen.