Future Digital Inclusion

The Future Digital Inclusion programme, run by Good Things Foundation and funded by the Department for Education (previously the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) is helping 1 million people improve their lives through digital over five years. The largest digital inclusion programme in the UK, it uses the community reach of the Online Centres Network to support some of the hardest to reach groups in society, engaging them in digital and helping them to progress.

Key Findings

The Future Digital Inclusion programme demonstrates the effectiveness of the Online Centres model in engaging and supporting socially excluded people to improve their lives using digital.


  • Future Digital Inclusion has demonstrated the success of helping community organisations build digital into their social mission, so that digitally and socially excluded people can gain digital confidence in combination with services for their community
  • Routes to Inclusion, a longitudinal study of Future Digital Inclusion learners, shows how multiple disadvantages affect engagement with learning and the importance of relationships in rebuilding this engagement through digital inclusion
  • In 2016-17, 46% of registrations on Good Things Foundation’s Learn My Way online learning platform came from Online Centres not receiving funding through Future Digital Inclusion, demonstrating the ‘movement’ effect created by the programme

The Future Digital Inclusion programme has driven, and continues to drive both positive learning outcomes and significant economic and social benefits

  • In 2016-17 Good Things Foundation celebrated reaching over 2 million people since 2010, supported by the Future Digital Inclusion programme 
  • In 2016-17 Future Digital Inclusion drove economic benefits relating to channel shift of £48.6m and wider economic benefits equating to £101 million
  • Over 60% of Future Digital Inclusion learners have reported feeling happier due to increased social contact.

The Future Digital Inclusion programme is effective at engaging those who are excluded from education and helping them to progress to further learning, including qualifications.​

  • 69% of Future Digital Inclusion learners with qualifications below Level 2 have not done any learning in the past three years
  • 84% of Future Digital Inclusion learners face one or multiple disadvantages before joining the programme
  • 90% of Future Digital Inclusion learners progress to further learning
  • 36% progress to qualifications (23% IT, 35% Maths, 39% English)
  • The ease of access, familiarity and informality, cultural relevance and support provided for families make Online Centres a good location for learners to progress​

Target audience: Unemployed

Unemployed people have been a core audience for the programme this year, with 31% of learners identifying themselves as unemployed and 4 out of 10 job-seekers attending a UK online centre doing so following a referral from a Jobcentre or Work Programme provider. Baseline skills for unemployed learners are slightly higher than the average learner, and they tend to be looking for support with specific online activities like CV upload, job search and application. 56% of unemployed learners don’t have the skills required to complete an online form, and 24% had neither home or personal (i.e. smartphone) internet access to an internet-connected device when they started learning. 85% of unemployed learners were using the internet to find work, but also cited other interests including work-related learning (63%), using local and national government services (39%) and finding health information (37%).

Target audience: Low-skilled

People with low skills are another key group of the Future Digital Inclusion programme - defined as those educated below Level 2: 63% of all learners and 59% of working-age learners had undertaken no learning or training - including informal or non-accredited learning - in the three years before attending the centre, suggesting that centres are playing an important role in re-engaging learners, and breaking a cycle of exclusion from education. Younger learners are more interested in accessing a broad range of support from their UK online centre, including literacy and numeracy, as well as study towards a qualification. Thanks to support from the programme, learners are able to better manage housing issues (55%), to manage money and changing financial circumstances (50%), and have greater independence (67%). 71% of learners report increased confidence.

Target audience: Disabled people

Another key audience of the Future Digital Inclusion project was disabled people. Disabled people are more likely to be educated below Level 2, to be in income poverty and to live in social or sheltered housing. Overall, they are much more likely to meet at least one social exclusion criterion. Interests tend to focus on online activities like shopping, banking and budgeting, but with significantly higher interest with using the internet to keep in touch with family and friends, to find health information and to access government services. Disabled learners are less likely to have access to access to the internet at home, and so their skill levels tend to be lower. However, progression for these groups is impressive, with 84% progressing to further learning. This group also report feeling less isolating and reporting increased independence following the support they receive from UK online centres.

Our Thoughts