Digital inclusion: a very hot topic

Monday this week was a very exciting day for one of our favourite partners – Go ON UK – and for digital inclusion as a whole. Digital inclusion was on the Today Programme, and BBC 5 Live, Guardian and Telegraph, and was trending on the BBC news website and on Twitter – now that’s the sort of noise we really want for digital inclusion. Well done Go ON UK!

BBC 4 tweet

It was the day that Go ON UK unveiled some wonderful new resources to tackle issues of digital exclusion. The resources that Go ON UK have created are a great asset to the sector, and as a stats nerd I’m particularly interested in their Digital Exclusion Heatmap, which allows anyone with an interest to look at the factors most likely to contribute to digital exclusion in an area. By searching for an area, you can pull up a range of stats about broadband infrastructure, levels of internet access and basic digital skills, as well as age, education levels, health and income. Finding out this information means we can determine why people are digitally excluded and then we can really take action and do something about it.

Haydn Jones

Three of my colleagues – Vicky, James and Emily – attended the big launch event at the House of Lords, and I was really sorry I couldn’t be there. Vicky’s blogged about the event here.

As Vicky says, it’s a complex issue, with multiple barriers and factors meaning it can be extremely difficult to pinpoint whether an adult in the UK is likely to be excluded or not. However, the heatmap gives us a great starting point – helping us determine where we need to focus our attentions; so we can make sure we’re focussed on the right areas.

Go ON UK also released some new research that shows that 12.6 million people in the UK don’t have the basic digital skills they need to participate in today’s digital society. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that this number has gone up not down – and of course we’re not saying that people aren’t being helped to get the skills they need. So what’s going on with the numbers? This year the skill of “problem solving” (such as verifying information found online) has been added to the basic online skills we previously had – moving up to 5 different types of online and digital skills (from 4 last year). We’ve now got a baseline we can work with and Go ON UK will be reviewing this data annually so we can measure our collective impact.

Heat Map

I love that the Heatmap creates such a full picture of the whole of the UK, and it’s really user-friendly so can be a great resource for organisations, from local authorities through to the grassroots organisations we’re supporting in the UK online centres network.

Another part of Go ON UK’s big unveil was their new website, Go ON Local. This gives local authorities and others the most useful and relevant resources to help them tackle the digital inclusion issue head on, so it goes hand in hand with the Heatmap. It’s great to see lots of our own resources and others on there.

Rachel Neaman (CEO of Go ON UK) stood up at our conference last November and said that we needed a Heatmap of digital exclusion – this week she unveiled it. She’s a woman of her conviction… I look forward to what she’ll be saying this year.

Leaving Nobody Behind

After all of the excitement of our Digital evolution events on Tuesday and Wednesday, I’ve finally found time to blog, and what a few days it’s been!

This is the third year we’ve run the Digital evolution conference, and I’ve got to say it gets better every year. It’s just brilliant to bring together such a positive, can-do bunch of people who have a real commitment to making things happen, and making things better, for the people they’re supporting in their communities.

This year, the focus of the conference was on leaving nobody behind, and people saw the conference as a rallying cry to close the digital divide once and for all. I talked to delegates about the enormous social and financial benefits of basic online skills, and I presented our A leading digital nation by 2020 report, that we published in February, which for the first time ever sets out clearly the cost of getting everyone in the UK online. It’s great having these figures as it gives us something to aim for, and a clear ask in terms of investment.

I also spoke about the focus that we need to put on really getting to the hardest to reach. I know I’m preaching to the converted when speaking to UK online centres about this, but as more and more people get online, we need to start trying to reach those who are most excluded, as they’re the ones who can benefit the most from what the internet has to offer.

Rachel Neaman gave a great speech; she talked about her new role as CEO of Go ON UK, and her ambitions for the organisation. One thing that Rachel said really stuck with me, that “1 in 5 of our adult population doesn’t have basic digital skills and this a national problem and a national disgrace.” She also talked about digital as the fourth basic skill, alongside reading, writing and arithmetic. This ambition really resonated with the audience, and with this kind of clarity I’m confident that Rachel will have a big impact in her role heading up Go ON UK.

All the delegates and speakers had such a positive attitude – everyone spoke as a real doer, not just a talker. This was only emphasised by our final two speakers – Steven Roberts from Barclays who leads the bank’s Digital Eagles programme, and Dominic Campbell of Futuregov, who is aiming to revolutionise the delivery of public services. They both have a great can-do attitude, which I think really sums up the conference.

I’m confident that every single person at the conference will go away and do something else, new, additional, to help close the digital divide – whether big or small. I certainly came away feeling really inspired, and I hope that if you were there, you did too. You can take a look through what was discussed through the #digievol14 hashtag, and you can look at our Storify here.