Adam is Director of Digital Inclusion at the Good Things Foundation charged with turning ideas into solutions and finding new opportunities and technologies. Much of his work is with commercial partners and Trusts and Foundations.@ajm_digital
11.5 million people in the UK still lack the basic digital skills that most of us take for granted, such as shopping or communicating with friends/relatives online
Not only are there 11.5 million people in the UK lacking basic digital skills there are 4.9 million who say they have never been online. In a digital world which continues to change fast, these people are being left further and further behind.
Dealing with this problem is vitally important for local and combined authorities. As well as enabling the digitally excluded to participate more fully in society, helping them cross the digital divide is vital for the continuing digital transformation of local services and the realisation of cost efficiencies: and with council budgets under extreme pressure, the need for both has never been greater.
Tackling digital exclusion also plays a critical role in addressing social exclusion, at a time when inequality of opportunity is squarely in the spotlight. 31% of those earning less than £9,500 a year lack basic digital skills, compared to 4% of those earning over £75,000. 61% of those helped by Good Things Foundation say they have not done any learning in the past 3 years. And people who are digitally excluded are more likely to be older, unemployed, have low skills, or have a disability.
For these people, learning digital skills can be life-changing, as our case studies demonstrate. For example, Margaret McDonald, from South London, who overcame alcohol addiction and depression to gain new skills, transform her life and that of her family with the help of her local Online Centre.
And beyond these inspiring personal stories, digital inclusion realises significant wider economic and social benefits, driving growth and social cohesion:
At Good Things Foundation we believe in a world where everyone can benefit from digital, and our mission is to help people become confident, capable and safe users of the internet day-to-day.
Our model of digital inclusion is community-based. We help community groups, libraries, social housing providers and others reach out to the digitally excluded and work with them to build their confidence and skills. Nationally we work with thousands of community-based organisations, known collectively as the Online Centres Network.
This model of engagement - building digital inclusion into different types of local support, from job clubs to exercise classes, and working with people in their neighbourhoods and on their terms (“trusted faces in local places”) - has, since 2010 allowed us to help over 2 million people change their lives through digital.
As well as large national programmes with the DfE, DCLG, HMRC and NHS Digital, we work with local authorities, typically in cities with high concentrations of digitally excluded people, to make digital inclusion happen ‘in a place’.
Our approach is based on mobilising community assets (individuals and organisations), deploying core tools and resources, creating a critical mass of awareness and commitment, and managing delivery. Central to this is our free learning platform, Learn My Way, used by over 200,000 people a year and designed specifically for people with low digital confidence.
Our local authority programmes - with Islington Council, Tower Hamlets Council, Leeds City Council, Sunderland City Council and others - have created place-based social movements for digital inclusion, with both direct delivery through community organisations and volunteer Digital Champions helping others to learn digital skills. In each case our aim has been to create models which can be self-sustaining.
Beyond these programmes, we are discussing with Combined Authorities the potential to deploy digital inclusion at a larger scale across city regions, where the impact could be even greater.
We want to see 100% digital inclusion across the country, and to do everything to accelerate progress in achieving this ambition. If set up in the right way, and with the right support from local authorities, digital inclusion ‘in a place’ can transform lives and opportunity whilst supporting service transformation and cost efficiency: a ‘win win’ for local government and the residents it serves. Bottom line: digital inclusion is essential to build the digital society of the future.
1* The Economic Impact of Basic Digital Skills and Inclusion in the UK, CEBR, November 2015
2* Learner and Progression Survey, Good Things Foundation, 2016