Supporting local innovation in digital inclusion
21 Feb 2017 |Written by Adam Micklethwaite
In the face of huge pressure on budgets, more and more local councils are innovating in digital inclusion.
They recognise both the economic and social importance of having a population able to participate in the digital world; and understand that driving digital inclusion supports a wide range of policy aims and service efficiencies, from higher employment to cost savings for the NHS. Digital flows through and underpins everything: it is not a side issue.
Innovative councils also see that digital inclusion isn’t ‘something that just happens’, or a problem that will go away over time. For example, the Basic Digital Skills Report 2015 shows that 11% of 35-44-year-olds don’t have all five basic digital skills, highlighting that digital exclusion is not a problem that just affects older people. Data from Ofcom also show that by far the biggest reason for being offline is motivational ('I don’t see the point’), underlining that helping people to cross the digital divide takes time, energy and commitment. And most critically, there is a strong correlation between digital exclusion and social exclusion, so making an impact across local populations requires targeted approaches that reach the most vulnerable and excluded.
Digital inclusion also needs investment: although the potential economic benefits that can be realised from a relatively small outlay are very large, as set out in a 2015 report commissioned from CEBR by Good Things Foundation and doteveryone. Investing £1.65 billion in digital inclusion across the UK would drive economic benefits of £14.3 billion over ten years, the equivalent of almost £10 per £1 invested.
Leeds City Council is one of those taking an innovative approach. Their programme “100% Digital Leeds” is creating a social movement for digital inclusion, mobilising support in communities across the city to reach the people who need the most help to develop digital confidence and skills: whether older people, those seeking employment, or those suffering from poor health.
The positive outcomes driven by the programme will include financial savings, reduced isolation, better employment prospects and improved health and wellbeing.
Good Things Foundation was proud to work with Leeds City Council to design and deliver the kick-off event for the programme last year; and since then there has been real progress in moving forward, which is great to see. This article in the Yorkshire Evening Post provides further detail.
We are equally proud to be working with other local councils on a range of brilliant programmes for digital inclusion; all aligning digital with positive social outcomes, and all driving activity for vulnerable people through the commitment and reach of community organisations.
The challenges local Government faces are real and acute: but there is ample evidence of innovation and ambition in digital inclusion, and this should be celebrated and shared.