Government cannot tackle the issue of digital exclusion alone, says Digital Minister Matt Hancock
The Minister of State of Digital, Matt Hancock, addressed the Good Things Foundation summer reception in the House of Lords, calling its work ‘critically important’ for the growth of digital skills in the UK.
Speaking at the parliamentary reception in the House of Lords, Minister of State for Digital Matt Hancock, said that the whole spectrum of digital skills in the UK must be strengthened. He conceded that this not a job that Government could do alone, and that Good Things Foundation and their stakeholders were “mission critical” to Britain’s success in the 21st Century.
The Minister was keen to emphasise the importance of these partnerships in delivering the digital skills agenda. “The pace of change inside the Government and the publicly funded education system tends to take time to move, and yet the digital world moves incredibly rapidly. We’ve got to make sure we do this in partnership…with people working on the ground in places where the Government finds it hard to reach.”
Lord Knight, former Chair and current Patron of the organisation, shared the concerns of the Minister about the increasing pace of digital change and the danger that swathes of people could be excluded, but he was optimistic about the level of engagement that he had seen in Parliament. Referencing a debate on the issue held in the House of Lords, he said “the debate on digital engagement last week was attended by so many members of the House of Lords that we had a speaking limit of just 3 minutes.”
Lord Knight went on to say that much of this success was a result of Good Things Foundation’s achievements in working at the interface between social and digital inclusion, and pushing the engagement on the ground.
Good Things Foundation have achieved these results by developing 5000 partner organisations throughout the UK, who are helping to build digital skills in local communities. The role of the organisation has now expanded internationally with a new project in Kenya, and a major 22 million AUD contract from the Australian Government to run their digital participation programme.
Despite this impressive reach, the new Chair of the Good Things Foundation Liz Williams believes that there is still much more to do to ensure that large groups of society are not left behind.
“With the world of work changing in ways we could have never imagined, we need to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, gender, or ability, has the core digital skills they need for today’s world.”
She explained that in her day-to-day role as a Director at BT she sees the importance of tech skills in creating and developing opportunities for people from a wide range of backgrounds.
“We see lots of people from disadvantaged communities coming in to work with us at BT…and day in, day out, we see that tech know-how is a game changer for their future prospects.”
Mark, a former carpet fitter who found himself homeless and living in shelters, is one of the millions who has gained new opportunities by developing his digital skills at one of Good Things Foundation’s partners within the Online Centres Network - the Oasis Centre in Plymouth.
Mark explained that his new computer skills have led him to a permanent volunteering position, where he helps people work towards their CSCS cards, the industry standard for construction work.
“We do a lot of different things for different people, not just the young, but the elderly, the Prince’s Trust, and Help for Heroes. We are involved in helping a lot of people who really need the digital world.”
In the last year, Good Things Foundation celebrated a major milestone, helping 2 million people improve their digital skills around the country. Chief Executive Helen Milner was keen to highlight that the organisation has even bigger aspirations. Announcing the Foundation’s new goal of supporting 3 million people by 2020, she concluded, “I am ambitious about the scale of social change that we can have if we focus on scaling up what we are doing… We are not just a network, we are not just a group of partners, we are a movement, a movement for social change.”