More work is needed to ease the digital divide

Eleanor Bradley speaking at ND18

Written by Eleanor Bradley, COO at Nominet

How many ways have you engaged with digital technology so far today? These interactions will likely be second nature and largely effortless for many of us, but there are 11.3 million adults in the UK without the basic digital skills to enjoy such accessibility to the digital world.

This isn’t a new issue nor conversation. The importance of training everyone in basic digital skills has long been recognised and impressive efforts are being made to this end. Unfortunately, there seems to be something of a productivity crisis. Despite all the funding, campaigns and initiatives of the past 12 months, only 450,000 people have been helped. That isn’t to diminish the success of helping – likely transforming the lives of – almost half a million people, but it barely scrapes the surface of 11 million. How do we make a bigger impact with the enthusiasm and support available?

Guidance comes annually from the Lloyds Digital Consumer Index 2018, the largest measure of financial and digital capability of people in the UK. It’s an insightful approach to assessing the digital divide and provides us with an accurate summary of the landscape so we can recognise the wins, appraise less successful activities and make informed adjustments to supercharge next year’s efforts. After this annual stocktake, effective plans can be made to create change and respond to the needs of those who need us.

It is becoming clear that we must to refine the way we target people to help them in a way that best suits the individual. One-size does not fit all, as the report shows us. We are making progress with those who actively seek training, but less well with those who struggle to access support in a way that suits their situation and needs.

For example, people with a disability are four times more likely to be offline despite the benefits it could give them. Many of these people may struggle to attend training sessions, or find that the tools and products trying to help them aren’t created in an accessible way. Refining the approach by being led by people with disabilities to find out what would work for them should increase uptake and chip away at the looming figure of 11 million.

The report also showed that those without any basic digital skills benefit from engagement in their own environment, while those looking for a refresh or some additional skills benefit from the outreach projects in spaces facilitated by campaigns and initiatives. Being agile and flexible in the approach to upskilling for the coming year is another way in which we can better serve those in need. Content and context are the cornerstones of meaningful change.

Another key takeaway is the importance of collaboration across public and private sectors. We shouldn’t assume that those in work automatically have basic digital skills: 10% of the workforce lack basic digital skills and only 14% of those using the internet at work have improved digitally through their work in a year. Organisations have a role to play in ensuring they recognise and prioritise digital skills training for their own staff, and more effort in this area is a win-win for all. Investment in digital skills training will bolster performance and productivity for the organisation and allow the workforce to gain key skills and an incentive to stay where they feel valued.

Organisations also need to be aware of how much their customers value privacy and security – we must all take the protection of customers’ data and the clarity of communication seriously. The report found that 80% of people have concerns about online safety, with identity theft a particular concern. With so many data breaches and misuse of personal information stories being splashed across the media, customers live in a climate of fear. They need trusted organisations to meet their concerns and reassure through process and communication.

These are just some of the conclusions to draw from the recent report and will serve as clear guidance for all those committed to helping the population feel included in the digital transformation. At Nominet, we fervently believe that inclusion is one of the three most crucial areas if we are to deliver a vibrant digital future that benefits all. As a company we will continue to refine our outreach and digital skills training programmes to meet those in need, based on the learning from this new index. If we focus on optimal content and context, we can help make the coming year one of real progress and ensure more people begin to find interaction with technology is second nature.

This article was originally published here.


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