On 12 December, the UK will march to the polls to vote in an election that will decide the UK’s next government. We don’t yet know who our new government will be, but whoever they are – we have a message for you.
There are 11.9 million people in the UK who do not have the essential digital skills for life. Or – if percentages are more your thing – 22% of the population. That means that more than one in every five people you see on the street have either never used the internet (4.1 million of them), or they don’t have the digital skills to function – which means being able to do things like filling in an online form, attaching a file to an email, or uploading a photo onto social media.
Digital inequality is holding us back.
Communicating with friends and family, managing your finances, applying for benefits or for a job, or shopping for Christmas presents – everything is so much easier with a connected laptop or a mobile phone. Many of us take technology and the advantages it offers for granted. Yet millions are living without the benefits of digital.
People who are digitally excluded are highly likely to be socially excluded too. For example, 40% of those in the lowest income category (less than £12,500/year) are digitally excluded. There is also a disproportionate percentage of non-users across less-educated groups, whilst people with a disability are more than twice as likely to be offline as those without one.
There’s a huge digital divide in this country, and it needs addressing. In a world where finding a job is difficult without an internet connection, government services are becoming digital by default, and banking is moving online, far too many people are being left behind.
But we can fix this skills and inclusion gap – together with government, industry and communities.
We’re calling on the next government to invest £734 million to close the digital divide in a decade, to sit alongside investment from companies.
And, since our research has shown that investing in digital skills for everyone brings a net present value of £21.9 billion, we think that £734 million is a small price to pay.
We need to work collaboratively across all sectors to bridge the digital divide. We want to encourage all organisations – however big or small – to make a commitment to support a truly digital nation. You can start by joining future.now – a new coalition aiming to coordinate action, especially by businesses. It’s an initiative led by Peter Estlin, who set up the coalition during his term as Lord Mayor of the City of London.
We are more than happy to discuss the steps we need to take to achieve this ambition. At Good Things Foundation, we work with thousands of community partners across the country. We’re the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity, and since 2010 we’ve helped over 3 million people improve their lives through digital, strengthening communities along the way.
Our Blueprint for a 100% Digitally Included Nation sets out some clear recommendations on how we can fix this problem – and we are determined to make this happen.
So, we have a question for whoever is the future Prime Minister: will you take on digital inequality, and ensure that everyone can thrive in a digital world?