Helping change happen in small steps and the DWP Select Committee

It’s always great when you start to see your hard work pay off. I am particularly proud right now that following what feels like many years of lobbying, my team and I have helped influence the Department for Work and Pensions in their decision to consider the potential for developing basic skills identification tools as part of their offer for claimants. It’s a small step, but it’s great to see any improvements happening.

Let me explain how this came about.

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Giving evidence at the committee. Image courtesy of http://www.parliamentlive.tv

Following a meeting with Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, back in November 2015, I was invited to give evidence to the Committee on their inquiry into the future of Jobcentre Plus. In July 2016, I was on a great panel with Kathy Corcoran OBE, Chief Executive of the Cardinal Hulme Centre and Tom Hadley, Director of Policy at Recruitment and Employment Confederation. You can see a transcript of the session here or you can watch it on Parliament TV here. Here’s the important bit:

“Helen Milner: I do think there has to be something done about the initial conversation at the Jobcentre, or ongoing conversations at the Jobcentre. On the scale of the problem, we have centres in our network that are still saying that people are being sanctioned for not being able to use the internet weekly and are coming to them. These are centres that only support a couple of thousand people a year. So it is still a problem. Obviously those individuals will have complex needs but they perceive that the reason for sanctions is that they are not able to use the internet. Therefore I think it is really important that the questions advisers are asking people right now are better questions, not, “Have you got the internet at home?”, not, “Do you know how to use the internet?” but, “Are you confident to use the internet, to use Universal Jobmatch, by yourself? Do you think you will be able to do this several times a week by yourself?” The people who are really falling foul that we are seeing are those who would say no, no and no to those questions but might say yes to, “Do you have the internet on your phone?” for example.”

I, and others on the panel, were then asked: “Could you write six questions, fairly short, that might guide the Committee to say that this would be an improved means of identifying people’s capability and where the risks might lie?” I submitted these to the Committee and they included a recommendation in their final report published in November 2016 which stated:

“Jobcentre Plus should include a digital skills assessment in the Claimant Commitment interview which goes beyond simply asking if a claimant has access to the internet or a computer.

This should draw on the good practice examples of digital skills assessments that are used by specialist support centres. Having poor IT skills should, for example, be grounds for claimants to be offered longer meetings with their work coaches.”

I was really pleased to see this recommendation as it is something which I passionately believe would make a real difference to the lives of job seekers up and down the country. Last year, the Online Centres network supported 89,000 jobseekers to improve their basic digital skills. Not only that, they helped them to gain confidence and self-esteem and supported them to change their behaviour and prepare for a return to the job market.

A couple of weeks ago, the Government response to the Committee’s report was published and I was over the moon when I saw a section on the digital skills assessment, taken almost directly from the DWP Select Committee’s report: Digital skills assessment Jobcentre Plus should include a digital skills assessment in the Claimant Commitment interview which goes beyond simply asking if a claimant has access to the internet or computer. This should draw on the good practice examples of digital skills assessments that are used by specialist support centres. Having poor IT skills should for example be grounds for claimants to be offered longer meetings with their work coaches.”

It’s great to finally see that the needs of those who are digitally excluded are being taken seriously and that the government is considering ways in which they can support them right at the beginning of their job search journey.

For me, this really demonstrates the impact that we can have if we pull together and influence about the issues which we feel most passionate about. Ensuring that jobseekers get fair and intelligent assessment and support during what is already a difficult time in their life is of paramount importance. Gaining basic digital skills so they interact with online Government job seeking services is also essential so everyone can thrive in our digital society.

Get Online Week: The campaign may be over but the fun’s just beginning

As quickly as it came around Get Online Week is over for another year – and what a spectacular campaign it was! A very fitting and busy celebration for a tenth birthday indeed.

Get Online Week is a great opportunity for the UK online centres network, and everyone else who wants to spread the digital inclusion message, to jump on the bandwagon and reach the 12.6 million people without basic digital skills, to show them how much easier a life online can be.

A front row seat

The Tinder Foundation team got out and about throughout the week to see Get Online Week activity firsthand and everyone was so impressed by all the great work they saw. I personally made it my goal to celebrate the big one zero by visiting ten different events. By the time I got home on Friday I was very tired but very pleased to have met so many wonderful people and seen so much exciting activity happening.

  1. Learn for Life, Sheffield

I visited Learn for Life in Sheffield with my colleague Boryana. It was so wonderful to catch up with the team there and meet all the learners who were finding out about all the wonderful stuff they could do online through Learn My Way and English My Way. Learn for Life supports refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants, as well as people from the local community. It really feels like a family there, it was so busy and vibrant. A great start to the week.

learn-for-life-2

  1. Edlington Hilltop Centre, Doncaster

On the Tuesday I popped across to Doncaster to visit Edlington Hilltop. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that Rachel and Rob, two of our Get Online Week poster stars, were from this centre. It was lovely to chat to the team there and to hear about all the great stuff they were doing. I can’t believe they achieve everything that they do with just 2.5 staff (or full time equivalents) – they can only do it with the hundreds of volunteers they have.

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With Get Online Week star Rob, and Edlington Hilltop’s Centre Manager Rob

 

  1. Rotherham Libraries

After visiting Edlington Hilltop I went across to Rotherham Libraries who were using Get Online Week as an excuse to get out to five different locations. I visited them at a coffee shop in the centre of Rotherham. They had a great set up to register people as members of the Library, and then talk to them about eBooks and the internet. However, I did meet an older woman who didn’t want to ever use the internet. However persuasive I tried to be, she wasn’t budging. I hope I planted some seeds about the benefits to her of being online and that Rotherham Libraries can nudge her a bit more next time they meet. Everyone at the cafe was so nice, and I have to say, 10/10 for cakes and coffee!

coffee-at-rotherham-library

  1. The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London

A few steps from Trafalgar Square and I was in this amazing day centre. From digital skills drop-in and lessons, to the provision of job interview clothes, this centre does everything they can to help homeless people in the capital. I gave one Big Issue salesman, Steve, his Learn My Way certificate, and spoke to lots of men, both learners and volunteers about their stories. Steve told me he used Facebook to communicate with his family via his phone but he knew nothing about email and searching. He was happy to learn that the internet had so much more to offer. A great visit.

homeless-london2

He said that gesture meant victory! Victory indeed for Get Online Week 2016

 

  1. Lloyds Charity Digital Skills workshop

A big thank you to our campaign sponsors, Lloyds Banking Group. The balloons, pens and notepads went down a treat and I was delighted to attend their Charity Digital Skills workshop on the Wednesday evening. More than 100 people were there to learn more about digital. Lloyds also launched their UK Business Digital Index 2016 on Wednesday to coincide with Get Online week.

lloyds-charity-digital-skills-workshop

  1. Peabody Darwin Court

The team at Peabody Darwin Court in London were so nice and it was surprising to see that they had a whopping five volunteers to support all of the people learning digital skills. Covering everything from job searching to copy and paste, it really was great to see people of all skill levels learning something new during Get Online Week.

peabody-london

  1. Cabinet Office Get Online Week event

I had a lovely time at Whitehall on Thursday lunchtime chatting to people from DWP and Jobcentre Plus Maidstone. It was great to hear how digital skills is now playing a bigger part in their day-to-day jobs, and I was delighted to show them how they can become a UK online centre and use Learn My Way to teach clients about all the wonderful stuff there is online to help them with their job search. It was a really insightful event and I hope we can work together in the future. Thank you to Chad Bond, from GDS, for organising these events throughout the week.

cabinet-office-whitehall

8, 9 and 10. I spent the Friday visiting three centres across Liverpool: Liverpool Carers Centre, Mersey Learn (at Mersey Travel) and Kensington Community Learning Centre.

They were all doing such great stuff and there was even a raffle game at Kensington where learners would receive a free raffle ticket for each online activity they completed. Alan Tapp, at Kensington (Liverpool), should help us out with next year’s toolkit – he had prizes from local businesses, he had an online games competition, and a huge turnout for his event.

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Talking to amazing carers about Twitter. Communication is so important for people who are often at home alone with those that they are caring for

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Louise Ellman MP at Mersey Learn at Mersey Travel

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Pulling out prizes from the box at Kensington Community Learning Centre

 

The fun’s just beginning

Get Online Week 2016 was a truly brilliant campaign. I visited these ten events but I saw so much more happening across social media – look up the hashtag #GOLW16 to see how much was happening and other great photos from the thousands of events around the country.

We may have reached even more people over the past week, teaching them digital skills that they can use to make their lives easier, but the stats still speak for themselves. There are still 12.6 million people in the UK who aren’t able to access the online world and it’s so important that we’re there to offer them support.

Get Online Week is like getting a dog for Christmas – Get Online Week is for life. It’s so much more than a seven-day campaign; it’s an accelerator for activity throughout the rest of the year. Get Online Week may be over, but the fun is only just beginning.

Government plans to make the UK one of the most digitally-skilled nations

Amid all of the noise this weekend – ahead of the Conservative Party Conference – about Brexit and grammar schools, the Government has quietly leaked a new policy that seeks to make the UK one of the most digitally-skilled nations. This will mean that there will be “publicly-funded basic digital skills training being offered free of charge to adults in England who need it”.

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This makes asking for free, publicly-funded basic skills learning a right for any adult who needs them, and this will be enshrined in the upcoming Digital Economy Bill.

Wow. Great news. There are 12.6 million people in the UK who don’t have the basic digital skills they need to function in a digital world. This means they’re missing out on jobs, flexible and convenient digitised public services, and personal savings of over £700 a year. And, it’s not just the people who are missing out – it’s the country too, with the Commons Science and Technology Committee saying that poor basic digital skills mean the country is missing out on £63 billion a year in lost GDP.

It’s music to my ears to hear a policy statement that says not being able to use the internet is as important as lacking basic skills in English and Maths. A real policy for the 21st century.

However, is this just ‘business as usual’? This new entitlement will be paid for by the existing Adult Education Budget which is all already allocated, mostly to Further Education Colleges.

Will FE respond appropriately or they will just tweak their plans enough to show willing and carry on as they’ve always done?

The people who lack basic digital skills are the same people who also lack jobs or have low skilled jobs; they lack good qualifications, and are living on low incomes. These people need to be at the forefront of the plan.

Let’s not kill this policy with traditional and expensive classroom learning in formal institutions. Let’s accelerate this policy using brilliant online learning like Learn My Way. Online learning drives up quality through a guarantee for user focus, excellence, and the right content for the right outcomes. Online learning can also drive down costs as it can be scaled easily and quickly. Online learning can empower people themselves to self-serve and take control to improve their own basic digital skills (assuming they have a little skill to start with).

And online learning can provide a universal curriculum for hyperlocal community-based providers who can blend it with great, personalised, informal and local support.

Online learning can deliver high quality at scale, and should form an essential element in the Government’s plan for a 100% digitally skilled nation.

This new policy is really great news. I’m delighted.

I just hope that we don’t miss the huge potential impact a well implemented policy can have on millions of people’s lives. I’m sure we will know more over the coming weeks.

DCMS press release is here.

Dear Mr Vaizey …

Dear Mr Vaizey

I was watching you give evidence to the BIS Select Committee yesterday on the digital economy and I heard you say: “When people say that 20% of people are digitally excluded it doesn’t ring true, it doesn’t capture the nuances and frankly some people just don’t want to be online”.

I thought you might like to have a neat summary of what the numbers say. You’re right to say the picture is nuanced – and it really depends if someone is looking at whether someone has ‘ever’ used the internet or alternatively if they actually have the basic digital skills to use the web to help them with their work, life, and play.

12.6 million adults in GB lack basic digital skills (that’s 23% of all GB adults). The five basic digital skills are: managing information; communicating; transacting; creating; problem solving. Go ON UK/Ipsos MORI, Basic Digital Skills UK Report 2015
11.1 million people in the UK have low digital capability. This is an indicator of actual digital behaviours such as: very little evidence of online shopping; no managing money online; no streaming or content. Lloyds Banking Group, Consumer Digital Index, 2016
11% of adults (5.9 million) have never used the internet. ONS, Statistical Bulletin: Internet Users, 2015
14% of adults are not recent internet users. ONS, Statistical Bulletin: Internet Users2015
14% of adults in the UK are non-users of the internet. Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
86% of households in Great Britain (22.5 million) have internet connected at home. Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
51% of adults use a smartphone to go online outside of the home. Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
67% of adults go online at home and elsewhere; and 17% of internet users (over 15 years) only go online at home. Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
Smartphones and tablets supplement rather than substitute computer use, with just 6% only using smartphone and tablet devices to go online at home or elsewhere. This rises to 10% among DEs. Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
The busiest 7-day period saw 14.4m unique visitors to pages at Gov.UK – this represents approximately 22% of the UK population. Activity on GOV.UK: web traffic
51% individuals interacted online with public authorities within the last 12 months. The European Broadband Scorecard Q1, 2015 via Ofcom
98% of under 45 year olds have at least one basic digital skill and 89% have all five basic digital skills. Go ON UK, Basic Digital Skills UK Report 2015
98% of under 45 year olds go online anywhere. Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
23% of under 45 year olds carry out 10 or less types of activities online. Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
80% of internet users in social group DE carry out 10 or less activities online. Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015

You also said that there are people who just don’t want to use the internet and don’t have a compelling reason to use it. According to ONS (2015) 53% of people who don’t have the internet at home (or via mobile) say they don’t have a connection because they ‘did not need it’. In comparison, other barriers are less with 32% indicating that no connection was due to a lack of skills; and high equipment costs and access costs are also a barrier to 12% and 11% of households respectively.

Working to communicate the benefits of the internet to those who don’t see them currently, will continue to be really important.

Hope you find these numbers useful in further understanding the broad digital engagement landscape.

Best wishes,

Helen

Government digital strategy by me: An ambitious goal, a taskforce, and a 4-point plan

At our Digital Evolution conference in November, Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, said that since 2010 the Government has invested about £30m to help people get the basic digital skills they need to function as part of our increasingly digital society. This was the same day that Chancellor George Osborne delivered the Autumn Statement and Spending Review, giving the Government Digital Service a cash injection of £450 million. Ed talked about the people that Government investment to date has helped, and how important it is to do more – and he also told us that the Government sees digital participation as a continuingly important issue.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance to put my views across in person this week at the Science and Technology Select Committee in Parliament, examining the digital skills gap for the Government’s Digital Strategy Review.

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Me giving evidence at the Select Committee. Image courtesy of parliamentlive.tv

There are still 12.6 million people in the UK who lack basic digital skills and of these, 49% are disabled, 63% are over 75 and 60% have no formal qualifications. But the punchline is that it’s the poorest in our society – those who are already being left behind – who aren’t benefiting from digital.

We’re in the same boat

I sat on a panel with Nick Williams, Consumer Digital Director of Lloyds Banking Group, and Margaret Sambell, Director of Strategy at the Tech Partnership. We were followed by another panel with Dr Ellen Helsper, Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor at the London School of Economics, Charlotte Holloway, Head of Policy and Associate Director at TechUK, and Steven Roberts, Strategic Transformation Director at Barclays PLC. Although the panel sessions were based around different topics, it seemed to me like we all feel the same way – we’re doing well but the government needs to take charge and work with many others to accelerate the digital agenda.

My four-point plan

You can watch the full meeting below, courtesy of Parliament Live TV, but one of the main things that I put across for consideration in the review was my four-point plan – something which I think is very important for the government to consider:

      • Leadership: The UK lacks clarity on what we want to achieve. We need a goal. I recommend that the Government sets a goal, for example 98% of the UK population with basic digital skills, and then provides the leadership and coordination to make sure we get on with it and succeed. Government is uniquely placed to convene and encourage key organisations to get this sorted.
      • Behavioural change: With so many people who have never used the internet saying it’s because they don’t see the relevance of the web to their lives, we don’t just need to help with skills – we need to get people interested in the first place. I think the private sector could lead this, as they’re already so good at persuading us to buy all sorts of things!
      • Skills, informal, and local: Our network is great, and all of the research shows why it works so well, as people want support to get basic digital skills by someone like them, which also means someone local to them too. Adults need learning to be informal, not to feel like school, and to be as personalised as possible. Tinder Foundation and our hyperlocal partners help about a quarter of a million people a year. We could double that delivery, but if you do the maths, us working along means we’d reach the 12.6 million at a much slower pace than we would if we worked together. What else can be done? Can the Government incentivise employers of low-skilled people to help them to digitally upskill their workforce for example?
      • Make digital more affordable: As the digital divide deepens, the cost of devices and broadband is a big issue for some who are still offline. People are finding things tough, and that means even the best deals are out of their reach. Government needs to work with tech companies and broadband providers to make digital more affordable. I don’t know the answer but I’m sure the Government using its convening power can bring relevant companies together and make the internet affordable for everyone, and especially to those in the lowest socio-economic groups.

Watch the video here. 

Speaking from experience

I listened with great interest to committee member Carol Monaghan MP, a member of the Scottish National Party. Carol seemed very clued up on digital inclusion and the importance of it, as she told us about her 80-year-old father who regularly tinkers with his iPad and makes mistakes, which his family then need to fix for him. She also said, however, that she was glad he at least tries to use it. This reminded me of the man that I met during my visit to Nottingham Libraries last week, whose family do all of his online transactions for him but don’t have time to teach him to do it himself.

In my final comments, I told the committee that I think the Government Digital Strategy should articulate a clear aim, and that I would like to see 98% of the population with basic digital skills by 2020. Norway is there already – it’s not an over-ambitious goal. I know 100% is a scary thought.

A goal that’s both ambitious and achievable, Government leadership through a taskforce or a cross-sector Council, and a four-point plan – that’s what we need. Then, together, we can achieve a better, stronger, more productive, digital nation, helping those most in need to become fully functioning members of our digital society.

To quote Dr Ellen Helsper, “Digital is 70% of my job, but 100% of my life” – let’s make it 100% of everyone’s.

Get Online Week – when anything can happen

Get Online Week is unpredictable. I saw endless amounts digital inclusion activity, both in person and online, and met a lot of inspiring and wonderful people. Some things I expected – meeting socially excluded learners, meeting the great volunteers who work so hard, and seeing the different things our community partners have to offer – but some things were unexpected and pleasant surprises – such as the popularity of our City and Guilds Online Basics qualification and the success of Exeter Library’s Fab Lab. All in all, it was a wonderfully successful week for me, my team and our vast network of community partners.

The Tinder Foundation team visited almost every corner of the UK. I visited an event in Sheffield at Longley 4G, and went down to Exeter to visit two centres, St Loyes and St Sidwell’s, as well as Exeter Library. I had a very different experience in all of them and it really opened my eyes to the reality of digital and social exclusion and the need for digital equality.

Team work

In an ideal world I’d have been able to visit all the Get Online Week events but unfortunately that’s not possible for one woman to do in seven days, so the Tinder Foundation team were my little helpers for the week and went out in their masses to visit all kinds of centres in different parts of the country.

I can’t stop shouting about the work we’re doing with libraries at the moment – it’s a subject that’s really close to my heart – and lots of my colleagues managed to pay visits to different libraries. Our Finance Director, Margaret, went to Oxford Library to say hello and see what they’re up to; our Head of Digital, James, popped along to Goldthorpe Library to help people try out different devices for getting online; and one of our newest additions to the team, our Research Intern, Sharon (who’s working very hard on our Libraries Digital Inclusion Fund project) visited Chesterfield Library to interview one of their learners for the project. This is just to name a few…

Margaret GOLW visit

Margaret really enjoyed her visit to Oxford Library

Some of us visited familiar haunts – our Senior Learning and Development Coordinator, Alison, went to Destinations@Saltburn for their employment-focussed event – and some of us went to completely new locations – Wider Network Manager, Caroline, visited our new partners, Remploy, in Sunderland to see how they’re getting on.

Some of us went further afield. Our Director of Business and Innovation, Adam, went all the way down to Somerset Media Solutions in Chard for their brilliantly named ‘TechNOphobia’ event, while our Content Marketing Officer, Sam, went to Prestonpans just outside of Edinburgh for their library’s employment drop-in session – and our Head of Marketing, Communications and Bids, Anna, went to Barrow Libraries to see their Digital Surgery with local MP, John Woodcock, in action. She was very impressed with the event, which around 40 people attended.

Learners

Some of the wonderful people Adam met at Somerset Media Solutions

Even the Ministers were getting involved

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the fun. I was thrilled to see Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey MP, out and about, visiting Erith Park in Bexley, part of housing association, Orbit Group. I think it’s important for the government to acknowledge digital inclusion, after all, they are the ones who can make the big things happen, and the fact that Ed took the time to get involved with our campaign was wonderful.

He showed his support by taking part in their innovative Walk the Talk tour which helps build community engagement through the use of a ‘digital suitcase’. Residents can get involved by passing the suitcase from person to person and using an old-fashioned telephone inside to record stories.

Orbit Group are also doing other wonderful things. The residents said that they love where they live but find it difficult to get to know their neighbours, so interactive screens have been set up in stairwells for neighbours to take selfies, leave messages and introduce themselves to kick-start interactions with their future friends.

They’re doing some really great and innovative work in the field of digital and this was recognised by the Minister: “The work being done in Erith Park is brilliant and it’s great to see Bexley taking part in the nationwide Get Online Week initiative. Getting online and embracing new technology is becoming more and more important in this digital age, and I congratulate all involved in this innovative scheme aimed at using technology to build community engagement.”

12-10-2015 Picture shows : Ed Vaizey MP tours new development Erith Park in Kent. Carl Fox 07966 349 562 www.carlfoxphoto.com

Ed Vaizey MP tours new development Erith Park in Kent. Image courtesy of Carl Fox (www.carlfoxphoto.com) via Digital By Default News

Dare devils

To top off the week, in a big end of campaign twist, our Director of Business and Innovation, Adam, along with TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding and Go ON UK’s Rachel Neaman, abseiled 120ft down TalkTalk’s Shepherd’s Bush office – all in the name of digital inclusion.

I applaud their bravery and the fact that the promise of the Get Online Week abseil encouraged hundreds of TalkTalk employees to share their digital skills as volunteers at local UK online centres. A big pat on the back to all!

Adam gets ready for the abseil

Adam gets ready for the abseil

I think this has been one of our most successful and eventful Get Online Weeks to date. The #GOLW15 hashtag was used almost 2400 times over the week and our social media campaign, #EasierOnline, almost 1200 times. On top of that #getonlineweek was used almost 900 times. I really enjoyed seeing all your pictures and posts. Here are a few of my favourites below:

Thank you to everyone who posted on Twitter and Facebook

Thank you to everyone who posted on Twitter and Facebook

Next year’s campaign will be our ten-year anniversary, so we’ll be aiming to make that our biggest and best Get Online Week yet, but if this year is anything to go by it’s going to be a hard one to beat. Maybe I should encourage the Tinder Foundation team to do a Get Online Week skydive…

328 pages of Manifesto pledges and promises, but does digital get a look-in?

So this week is ‘manifesto week’; Labour went first on Monday closely followed by the Conservatives on Tuesday and the Lib Dems released theirs on Wednesday morning.

With bated breath I searched through each one to see how much digital – skills, digital government, broadband access and mobile coverage – featured in each one.

Image via Huffington Post

Image via Huffington Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Skills

Labour

“We will support community-based campaigns to reduce the proportion of citizens unable to use the internet and help those who need it to get the skills to make the most of digital technology.” A great commitment to increasing digital skills.

Conservative

“We will save you time, hassle and money by moving more services online, while actively tackling digital exclusion.” A big more vague, but still promising.

Lib Dem

“We will uphold the highest standards of accessibility in digital services and maintain government programmes in digital inclusion.” Maintenance is good, growth in programmes is better.

 

Digital Government

Labour

They outlined the important role that technology will play in the role of changing the way in which public services are delivered.“We will use digital technology to create a more responsive, devolved and less costly system of government.” They also went on to say: “We will further develop digital government to enable better communication, more collaboration and sharing data between services. It will make services and transactions more efficient and simpler for people to use. To create a more connected society, we will support making digital government more inclusive, transparent and accountable.”

Conservative   

“We will ensure digital assistance is always available for those who are not online, while rolling out cross-government technology platforms to cut costs and improve productivity – such as GOV.UK.” A good statement supporting Assisted Digital, always good to see that those who aren’t online will still get help to use an improved service (that’s digitally delivered of course).

Lib Dems

“Focus on delivering efficiency, funding proven spend to save initiatives and investing in technology to get public services and frontline staff online.” Quite a broad statement but like the other parties it seems like a commitment to ensuring that the government evolves to become as digital as possible.

 

Superfast Broadband

Labour

When it comes to broadband infrastructure the Labour party have committed to the following – “Labour will ensure that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high-speed broadband by the end of the Parliament.”

Conservative

The Conservatives have hedged their bets a little more; they have made one commitment to provide the majority of people with broadband access. “We will secure the delivery of superfast broadband in urban and rural areas to provide coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017.” When it comes to providing broadband access for the whole of the UK they have been much more vague: “we have set an ambition that ultrafast broadband should be available to nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable.”

Lib Dems

“We will complete the roll out of high-speed broadband to reach almost every household (99.9%) in the UK.” Like the Labour statement, the Lib Dems are committing to completing the job of getting the infrastructure right.

 

Mobile Coverage

Labour

“We will work with the industry and the regulator to maximise private sector investment and deliver the mobile infrastructure needed to extend coverage and reduce ‘not spots’, including in areas of market failure.” A statement which I pretty much expected – ensuring that mobile coverage is as good as it can be.

Conservative

“We will hold the mobile operators to their new legally binding agreement to ensure that 90 per cent of the UK landmass will have voice and SMS coverage by 2017.” The Conservatives gave a little more specificity than Labour, demonstrating that there is a legal binding agreement to get better mobile coverage.

Lib Dems

There was no mention of mobile coverage in their manifesto.

A promising start

Overall, I don’t think there have been any big surprises in the manifestos and digital inclusion has featured as much as we thought it would. There’s hope in all three, and certainly the promise for us to carry on with the work we are already doing. And there’s plenty here we can build on, no matter the decision of the voters on 7th May.

We’ll be looking at the rest of the Party manifestos next week, and I’ll do another round up of SNP, Green and UKIP to see where they stand.

Remember, the deadline to register to vote is Monday, 20th April!