Today’s announcement that the Government will introduce a new national entitlement to fully fund adults with no or low digital skills to undertake new qualifications is hugely welcomed. The UK is a world-leader in developing new technologies and is at the cutting edge of research and innovation. At the same time 1 in 5 adults have no or only very rudimentary digital skills, failing to equip these individuals with the skills necessary to thrive in a digitising world would only increase the gulf between the digitally-savvy and the excluded.
With an increasingly digitising world it is absolutely crucial that we equip everyone with the skills not only to survive but to thrive. Research has shown how important digital skills are to getting a job, with an estimated 90% of jobs in the next 20 years likely to require some form of digital knowledge. With the population living and working longer ensuring that people can pivot as jobs change will be crucial – helping people find new roles, increase their earning potential and continue to participate in economic life.
But this is not just about economics. Digital technologies have changed the way we socialise and live our lives on a day to day basis – from shopping and banking online to searching for the best deal for your gas and electricity, the internet and new digital technologies have made things simpler. Yet, those without the basic digital skills necessary to make use of these platforms are being penalised. This makes everyday life harder and even more expensive. Inclusion therefore isn’t just an economic imperative but a social one too.
It is fantastic to see the Government committing to driving up the national digital skills base and we should be setting ambitious targets to ensure no one is digitally excluded. We should also be helping people understand the benefits of building this foundational skills-base with regards to the various pathways and opportunities that this would open up; opportunities for further training and perhaps even to specialise in certain fields.
A clear national baseline is long overdue, but we should set our sights higher and see this as the start of the journey to building a digitally empowered nation.