As the world becomes increasingly digitised, digital literacy is swiftly becoming an essential skill. Those who are not equipped with these skills are becoming increasingly marginalised and as more services migrate online they will find themselves at a disadvantage.
Currently, 21% of the UK population lacks at least one basic digital skill, leaving the equivalent of 11.3 million adults in the UK digitally excluded. It is forecast that in 20 years 90% of all jobs will require some element of digital skills.
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee acknowledged the problem in its Digital Skills Crisis report, which estimated that the gap is costing the UK economy £63 billion a year in the lost potential for additional GDP. Research and analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) have indicated that in the next ten years almost seven million UK adults (12% of the UK population) will be left behind due to digital exclusion.
The Cebr report estimates that £1.1bn in time savings from financial and government transactions moving online and that £141m can be made in NHS savings from an increased use of digital services. However, the report asserts that these financial benefits can only be realised from investing in greater digital training.
Greater Investment Required to Achieve Full Digital Inclusion
To achieve a fully digitally included population the report estimates it would require a commitment of £1.2bn over the next ten years noting that by “providing everyone in the UK with the essential digital skills they need by 2028 will lead to a benefit of £15 for every £1 invested.”
The report, created for Good Things Foundation by Cebr, warns of costly financial consequences for the UK’s economy, which could run into the billions by 2028 unless action is taken now. In response to these findings, the Good Things Foundation is calling on the government and other organisations to step up their efforts to support those at risk of being left behind.
The foundation has launched a new campaign Bridging the Digital Divide to help narrow the gap and is seeking government support to ensure that the nobody is left behind. Helen Milner OBE, Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation, said: “The UK could be the first 100% digitally included nation and this report shows there is a clear economic case for investing. So we’re calling on government and businesses to commit to getting everyone online in the next ten years.
“Those who profit most from digitisation have a responsibility to help improve digital inclusion. But there is also a clear case for acting now. It is unacceptable that so many people are being left behind, and the report we’ve commissioned underlines the urgency of stepping up our efforts.”