1 million supported, but we’re nowhere near finished

Today we were delighted to announce that our Future Digital Inclusion programme, funded by the Department for Education (DfE), has helped over 1 million people, since 2014, to gain the basic digital skills they need for life and work. This has been the result of a great partnership with DfE, whose staff genuinely understand the wider social impact of basic digital skills on the lives of socially excluded people, and with thousands of hyperlocal community partners across the Online Centres whose special abilities both engage and support people in the heart of their communities for whom digital blended with great human face-to-face support is the lifeline they’ve been looking for.

It’s been an incredible journey to get here and I’ve met so many amazing people along the way. Here a few of them:

  • Bertram Henry was a learner in Manchester. He suffered a breakdown and could barely bring himself to leave the house. Eventually, he felt up to visiting the Jobcentre and they recommended he go along to his local Online Centre, First Asian Support Trust (FAST). He completed lots of courses on Learn My Way, improving his knowledge and confidence. Now he’s been able to find a job as well. Bertram says: “I feel bright in the morning now, because I’ve got somewhere to go, and something constructive to do. I’m not down in the dumps anymore”

Hear Bertram’s story, and how happy he was to win one of our 2 Millionth Learner Awards: 

  • Edith Ball from Preston learned digital skills at her local Online Centre – The Intact Centre. She was cautious about getting online but now there’s no stopping her – she’s using Skype and emails to talk to family abroad, surfing the internet to find out all sorts of information, and much more. She’s delighted with her new skills and is much less lonely as a result. Edith says: “Before I came here, I just sat in the house on my own, but coming to the IT classes brings me out of the house and gives me something interesting to do. I’m never bored and I enjoy everything I do there. I do still get a bit nervous using the computers but I would recommend it to anyone. The whole world is there online – you’ve just got to have the courage to go in and look!”

Hear more about Edith’s journey from the lady herself in this video, released as part of Get Online Week: 

  • Rory Whittaker from Lincolnshire is a young contract farmer. He learned digital skills with his local Online Centre Lincs Training to diversify his business in new and exciting ways, meaning he can be profitable all year round. Rory says: “For all businesses in today’s current climate, evolution is vital, and even more so if you’re a rural business. You don’t want to get left behind. You need constant financial and time investment and you need to learn how to do things more easily. I think the best way to grow a business is to find a model that works and apply it to what you know. Having great people and great projects supporting you like Rich and the team from Lincs Training makes that journey even better.”

See more of Rory’s story in this video, released as part of the Get Online Week campaign: 

An incredible journey

It has been a real journey to get to 1 million, made possible by the hard work and dedication of the 5,000-strong Online Centres Network. 80% of the people they’ve supported face some form of social exclusion, including poverty, low skills or a disability.

The programme has helped people to achieve a range of positive outcomes, with 86% of learners progressing to further learning, 76% increasing their employability, 60% improving their health and wellbeing, and 84% able to use public services online.

Our recently released Economic impact of Digital Inclusion in the UK report found that the benefits of learning digital skills are endless. From time savings (undertaking financial and government transactions online could mean an estimated value of £1.1bn saved by 2028), NHS savings (the more people that can use the online world to help manage their health, the more savings can be made – estimated at £141 million by 2028) and transaction benefits (being able to shop online, taking advantage of discounts and more, could collectively save people across the UK an estimated £1.1 billion by 2028).

Digital skills are so important in many aspects of life and reaching 1 million learners through the Future Digital Inclusion programme is an incredible achievement. I am so proud. Thank you to the Good Things team, the Online Centres Network, but most of all, the learners for being so brave and having the confidence to take that first step into online life.

There is still more to be done though. 11.3 million UK adults still lack at least one basic digital skill and 4.3 million have no digital skills at all. We will continue supporting Online Centres to help learners to make the most of the online world, but this is something that needs collaboration and, of course, the ‘F’ word (funding).

It’s not just about supporting people to be more digitally able and it’s not just about the new skills they’ve learned – it is what people can do with these skills that matters, and how they can apply them to their lives – to be digitally active – to apply for work for example, or to email a family member who lives far away, or join an online forum to help them lose weight and reduce their risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

At Good Things, we want everyone to be digitally equal – so they can participate in the digital society like others can and do. If people aren’t digitally equal, they’re excluded from an increasingly digital society. We don’t want this to happen – and so we’re campaigning for a 100% digital nation. These million people we’re celebrating today brings us that one step closer.