Digital inclusion will be essential for our economic recovery

Digital inclusion will be essential for our economic recovery

With the forthcoming Essential Digital Skills qualifications soon to be delivered to many digitally excluded learners, we’re taking a look at why it’s more important than ever before to close the digital skills gap.

Lockdown and the digital revolution

Whilst we have been in the midst of a digital revolution for a number of decades, the lockdown has kicked things into an even higher gear. Many of us have had to adapt to new ways of working either using new or different technology to complete usual tasks, or an entirely manual process suddenly finding itself online.

Our physical office spaces may be falling out of favour as remote working becomes a usual practice and digital inclusion and digital literacy continue to gain pace as a basic necessity of our working life. Even face to face interviews have been traded in for an online equivalent. Currently a safety precaution but with little movement towards free flowing office spaces, this might be an aspect here to stay for some time.

Digital isolation is dangerous

Outside of the workplace, our lives are increasingly led online. Bank branches are closing in favour of online banking, we shop online for clothes and groceries and we can order a meal to be delivered at the touch of a button. However, for those who aren’t from a generation where tech products are part of everyday life, or who simply aren’t tech-savvy and don’t have access to digital solutions, becoming isolated is a risk.

Never was this more apparent than when vulnerable people, who were most at risk of coronavirus, were told to shield. Many had no concept, capacity or kit to consider ordering anything to their door and were reliant on the goodwill of others for support.

There were some who weren’t so lucky and who had to either risk their health and leave their house for essentials or, in the worst of circumstances, go without. The reality of this was felt acutely as reports emerged of a vulnerable man who starved to death during the lockdown without access to support. Proving that to make an assumption about digital literacy and digital inclusion is truly dangerous.

Poverty and Social Exclusion said: “people who are digitally excluded are likely to be disproportionately heavy users of government services. Nearly half of those seeking help on tax and tax credit issues do not have access to a computer”.

Dismantling the digital divide

There is a great digital divide that is threatening to widen without clear support and intervention for those who need it most.

Alpha plus, the organisation which the Department for Education tasked with developing the new basic digital skills standards said that: “this exclusion disproportionately affects vulnerable people – such as low-income groups, the elderly and the more marginalised communities in society – further entrenching their disadvantages and creating a strong correlation between digital and social exclusion”.

With a shrinking job market, the struggle to find work is hard enough without adding in a further level of disadvantage to the mix. If we don’t support those people to develop the digital skills they need, we risk leaving amazing talent and potential behind.

The future of digital inclusion

Digital literacy and digital inclusion will be an essential part of our regeneration efforts to ensure people are ready for work, perhaps in a new role or different sector following a job loss as a result of the pandemic.

The UK Government is supporting a digital growth strategy with the forthcoming Essential Digital Skills qualifications which will be available to learners who are eligible for Adult Education Budget (AEB) funding. An initial assessment for of a learner’s digital skills will be required ahead of delivery in line with the funding rules.  

To find out more about our initial assessment for essential digital skills, our newest feature to be added to the Skills Builder platform, email to our team today on eds@skillsforward.co.uk or existing customers will find this option on their dashboard.

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