12 Oct 2021

Digital literacy becoming as important as reading and writing: Vodafone Report

A report from Vodafone and WPI Strategy reveals that digital literacy is becoming as important as reading and writing for young people’s future life chances.

The report calls on the government to conduct additional targeted research to identify who precisely is being adversely impacted by the digital divide, and to create a new cross-departmental task force to agree goals on how to tackle the issue. It suggests one outcome might be a devices and data voucher scheme to ensure that those most vulnerable in society do not face digital exclusion.

The report – No One left Behind, the UK’s Digital Divide in 2021 found that:

  • Nearly 1 in 4 people (23%) from the lowest household incomes said they are not confident using a search engine to access government services or apply for a new passport, compared with just 5% in the richest households. This suggests the most vulnerable in society are at risk of not being able to access essential support, which is increasingly only accessible online.
  • Two-thirds of people seeking employment at the time of the research (63%) said they would benefit from digital skills training, compared to 36% of the general population. This suggests that employability – or the ability to access employment – may be directly linked to digital skills.
  • Almost a third of respondents (28%) described their current level of digital skills as basic. And nearly twice as many people who were not working (59%) than working (35%) said they were not confident using more advanced software functions such as inserting tables, using excel formulae or adding graphics to documents. This suggests that improved digital skills are required to further advance job prospects.
  • Almost a third (29%) of respondents have had to share a device during the past year – meaning that families with multiple children in different year groups had to decide which online lessons their children should attend, or choose between their own work and their child’s education.

techUK welcomes the recommendations in the report. Both techUK and Vodafone are a part of the Inclusive Economy Partnership's (IEP) Digital Inclusion Impact Group, co-chaired by a Minister of State, Sherry Coutu, author of the Scaleup Report and NED at DCMS and Digital Boost, which looks to improve digital skills and facilitate better access to digital technologies across the UK.

Nimmi Patel

Nimmi Patel

Head of Skills, Talent and Diversity, techUK

Nimmi Patel is the Head of Skills, Talent and Diversity at techUK.

She works on all things skills, education, and future of work policy, focusing on upskilling and retraining. Nimmi is also an Advisory Board member of Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (digit). The Centre research aims to increase understanding of how digital technologies are changing work and the implications for employers, workers, job seekers and governments.

Prior to joining the team, she worked for the UK Labour Party and New Zealand Labour Party, and holds an MA in  Strategic Communications at King’s College London and BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Manchester.

[email protected]

Read lessmore