Digital Skills and Tech for Good

Written by Margot James, Margot James, Minister for Digital & Creative Industries (MDCI)

We are working hard to make sure everyone can enjoy the UK’s world-leading digital economy and it is crucial that everyone has the digital capabilities they need to fully participate in society.

This means recognising the importance of the ​basic​ digital skills people need to make the most of being online, and the ​basic ​digital skills increasingly needed in every job such as making online payments or sending emails. It also includes the ​high​ level digital skills that are needed for the growing number of specialist digital roles across the tech sector, such as cyber security or artificial intelligence.

It is vital opportunities to build digital skills are available to individuals and companies across the country. Through the Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) we are building strong connections between the public, private and third sectors to boost digital skills so everyone has better access to the training they need to get on in life.

As a part of the DSP’s work, DCMS have launched six Local Digital Skills Partnerships (LDSP) in regions across England to help deliver targeted digital skills training for communities to benefit businesses in the region.

The Local Digital Skills Partnership was established to create a more coherent picture of digital skills provision at a local level and design and deliver innovative digital skills interventions. These partnerships are already gathering insightful regional data to help LEPS/businesses design effective regional digital skills programmes.

The next wave of Local Digital Skills Partnerships are already underway. The South East will now join Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Cheshire and Warrington, Lancashire, Heart of the South West and the West Midlands, working together with support from government and industry partners to build ‘best in class’ digital skills provision that can then be replicated across other Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) regions.

Through the Civil Society Strategy engagement exercise, we discovered that while 72 per cent of charities saw digital’s potential to deliver their organisations’ strategy more effectively, only 32 per cent had a strategy for how digital could help achieve their goals.

This was often attributed to a lack of time, capacity, or understanding of how to embed digital at the leadership level. In response to this, we launched a £1m Digital Leadership Fund to support the growth of digital skills in the charity sector and encourage leaders to embed digital into their organisational values. The fund was open to charities, social enterprises, public sector and community organisations that had ambitions to expand upon a digital transformation programme in their organisation.

The Digital Leadership Fund awarded 13 organisations, one of which was The School for Social Entrepreneurs. ​The School for Social Entrepreneurs and Zoe Amar Digital have run a ‘Third Sector Digital Leaders’ course in London since 2016.​ ​The funding they received through the Digital Leadership Fund provided them with the resources and opportunity to scale the course to four additional locations; Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. This allowed them to strengthen the digital skills of more than 70 charity leaders and social entrepreneurs across England, helping them to be more confident leading digital change within their organisations.

I’m particularly delighted to hear that, through the Digital Leadership Fund, my department has helped the Encephalitis Society, based in North Yorkshire:

“Running over four days and – even better – based only an hour away from our offices , it was a perfect find. The course has already led me to audit where we are currently with digital and spawned an appeal to our members for digital volunteers as well as reshape some new roles so they are more specific to the digital world. We are determined to reach everyone who needs us and digital will enable us to be more efficient and effective in this process. This course has been the first step in discovering digital and all of its potential and we can’t wait to get going with the next step.”
(Philippa Chapman, Director of Services at Encephalitis Society)

It is fantastic to see this positive feedback and to learn about the impact that the course has already had on those who took part. This demonstrates the huge force for good that technology can have in organisations across all sectors of our economy.

When I spoke at the DigitalAgenda Impact Awards in March, I had the pleasure of joining the celebration of some of the very best organisations that are using technology to address some of our society’s biggest issues. This includes, the winner of the Employment & Skills category, Workfinder, have developed a platform that enables students 16-24 year olds find, shortlist and apply to companies offering placements locally. This is a fantastic example of technology being put to good use, addressing an issue that many young people come up against when trying to navigate the world of work and choosing a career path.

I’m looking forward to seeing even more of the fantastic innovation that is emerging in our thriving tech sector.

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