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.

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