The pandemic accelerated the shift to digital – we must now ensure no one is left behind
Our reliance on technology has never been greater as a nation. It forms a fundamental part of our day to day lives, how we communicate, access services, how we learn and how we work.
Over the past year and a half, the Covid-19 pandemic thrust digital poverty into the spotlight, as many aspects of everyday life moved online. But not everyone was able to easily transition to a digital day-to-day existence; according to the Lloyds Consumer Digital Index 2021 more than 11 million people lack essential digital skills for everyday life.
The pandemic exposed how much has already been digitised, how damaging digital poverty can be for individuals and society as a whole. This is why we have come together across parties this week, to chair the Digital Poverty and Inequalities Summit.
In this series of roundtables, in partnership with All-Party Parliamentary Groups and supported by the Digital Poverty Alliance, we will discuss how to ensure everyone in the country can benefit from the great advantages that technology brings to our lives.
In five sessions over two weeks we will be joined by an unparalleled list of leaders, including current and former senior politicians, business and third sector leaders, unions and organisations focused on building a stronger digital future.
We will be hearing the steps that are being taken by government and the private, public and third sectors to close the digital divide and working together to develop a clear path to eliminate digital poverty in the UK.
Digital technology touches every part of our lives and will be at the heart of our future success as a nation
On day one, we will focus on Digital Capability and Understanding, with the Digital Skills APPG, chaired by Julie Elliott. Research from The Learning and Work Institute has indicated that the number of young people taking IT subjects has dropped by 40 per cent since 2015. With demand for digital skills rapidly increasing in the workplace, attention is needed to understand and address this disconnect.
On day two, we will discuss Devices & Connectivity, with the APPG for Data Poverty, chaired by Darren Jones. This year, the Nominet Digital Youth Index reported that up to 42 per cent of young people are not adequately connected, lacking either a home broadband connection or a computer. Access to affordable, reliable devices is essential for levelling up digital skills across all sectors of society.
Day three will be chaired by Esther McVey, with the APPG for tech, PICTFOR, on the topic of Research and Development, which will look at the role for the tech sector in spearheading innovation that will further boost the economy and close the digital divide.
Day four, chaired by Siobhain McDonagh, will look at Education and the Digital Divide. When schools closed during the pandemic, teachers turned to remote learning with the government, industry and third sector racing to ensure that every child had the data and device that they needed to get online. Many teaching tools will remain online, so for those children on the wrong side of the digital divide, the consequences are more serious than ever.
On day five, Damian Collins, will chair a roundtable on Online Safety, Security, and Accessibility, addressing some of the societal factors that inhibit digital access and that threaten those already online.
These issues are of importance across every party, which is why we are joining together for this series of vital and urgent discussions with the support of the Digital Poverty Alliance who will capture and align the outcomes of the Summit.
Digital technology touches every part of our lives and will be at the heart of our future success as a nation. We must take what we have learnt from the rapid shift to digital during the pandemic and plan for a future where no one is left behind, where every child in the United Kingdom has the connectivity to access digital learning, where every adult has the digital skills needed for the workforce, where the tech industry can support innovation to help ensure a strong and brighter future for us all.
Key notes will be published each day at www.digitalpovertyalliance.org ahead of the publication of a major evidence review early in 2022. For more information contact [email protected]
Julie Elliott is the Labour MP for Sunderland Central and chair of the APPG Digital Skills. Darren Jones is the Labour MP for Bristol North West and chair APPG on Data Poverty and the Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum (PICTFOR). Esther McVey is the Conservative MP for Tatton and founder of ‘If Chloe Can’ online career support. Siobhain McDonagh is the Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden and vice-chair of the APPG on Digital Skills. Damian Collins is the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe and chair of the Joint Committee on the Draft Online Safety Bill.
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