With the rise of machine learning, blockchain and artificial intelligence, the UK’s direction of travel is digital. This presents us with a wealth of opportunity but as we pivot to a truly technology-powered future, we must be mindful of the 9% of the UK population who are unable to use the internet at all and might be left behind. The UK digital skills gap costs the economy approximately £63 billion each year in lost productivity with 11.5 million UK adults, 10% of the working population, and 1.6 million small businesses lacking basic digital skills. For so many of the UK population – being able to check their finances 24/7, connect with friends and family, and use online tools to look for cheaper products and services online – are simply not part of the day to day.
For us to close the digital skills gap together, it is crucial that we continue to measure digital confidence and capability and work in collaboration. The Digital Skills Partnership, now set up by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, is an example of how like-minded organisations can shift the dial through the power of partnership; the sum of our parts is greater than our whole.
With the data showing the scale of the opportunity, the Department for Education announced last year that they will provide Digital Skills Entitlement to fund digital skills training for all UK adults from 2020. In order to make sure this is fit for purpose, new training standards are being designed and these will be aligned to a refined Basic Digital Skills measure.
The existing framework was originally designed in 2015 and forms part of the Lloyds Bank Consumer Digital Index. Used by government, industry and academia alike, it sets out the standard of what citizens in the UK need to achieve in order to participate fully in the digital world, and the steps to take to meet each digital skill.
We are working with the Tech Partnership and Department for Education to convene more than 20 cross-sector partners to make sure this refined measure is as representative as possible. As well as outlining the digital skills needed for the everyday, for the first time, we are creating an outline of the basic digital skills required in the UK workplace. So far, 236 organisations have already fed in expertise and input but we are also undertaking focus groups to ensure we are thinking about how to shift mind-sets as well as skillsets.
The last 7 weeks have been a great example of what we can do when we work together. This consultation is fundamental in defining the UK’s digital skills for both life and work; a real opportunity to make a vital impact on the UK socially and economically.
To ensure the framework works for everyone, we would like your help – what are the digital skills that people need to be part of society? What digital tasks are essential for the workplace? With only a few days to go, we would really welcome your perspectives – please share your thoughts here before Tuesday 20th March. We look forward to hearing from you!