Frontline digital inclusion insights: Digital Futures For Good election special

In our sixth episode of Digital Futures for Good, Digital Inclusion Hubs take the spotlight to share views on digital inclusion barriers & propose actions future government could take to fix the digital divide.

Ahead of the General Election, Digital Inclusion Hubs and their ambassadors took the spotlight in a special episode of the Digital Futures for Good series. Hayley Nelson, Director of Learn for Life Enterprise in Sheffield, and Geraint Turner, Finance and Operations Director at Swansea MAD, from Hubs in the National Digital Inclusion Network, shared their views on barriers to digital inclusion and proposed actions the future government can take to fix the digital divide. You can watch the episode here.

Community perspective on digital inclusion

The discussion centred on achieving a digitally inclusive nation from a community perspective. Hayley has over a decade of experience supporting vulnerable and hard-to-reach individuals through adult community learning and education. She shares her expertise alongside Geraint, who collaborates with marginalised communities to address barriers to social justice and equity. Together, they discussed both local and national obstacles to digital inclusion and envisioned what a modern, digitally inclusive Britain should look like and how to achieve it.

Barriers to digital inclusion in rural areas

Geraint highlighted significant barriers to digital inclusion in rural and hard-to-reach areas of Wales, emphasising the high costs of broadband rollout and lack of competition, which often leaves residents without adequate service options.

“Lots of rural communities are on dial-up… There’s not enough incentive because costs are too high for companies. There is a monopoly of infrastructure… You can’t complain to Openreach, and you can’t complain to Ofcom because they won’t get anything done,” Geraint noted.

The role of civil society and government in fixing the digital divide

Hayley pointed out that while civil society is making strides in digital inclusion through grassroots initiatives like Learn for Life and Good Things Foundation, widespread digital inclusion requires the government to prioritise and fund infrastructure and initiatives.

“Digital inclusion is not on their agenda… The government is catching up. If the government was taking it into account, there wouldn’t be places like Learn for Life and Good Things Foundation… It needs more work,” Hayley argued.

Expert reactions

Alongside our Group CEO Helen Milner, digital inclusion experts Vinous Ali, Head of International at Public First and Good Things’ Board trustee, and Liz Williams, CEO of FutureDotNow and Group Chair of Good Things Foundation, shared their reactions to the hubs’ discussion. 

National strategy for digital inclusion

Liz emphasised the need for a national strategy, arguing that digital inclusion must go beyond temporary fixes and address the massive gap between current reality and the vision for a digitally inclusive society.

“I want to make sure everyone in the country has the basic digital skills,” Liz stated, stressing the need for Governmental action. “What’s the bold vision and how can the Government help set that?”

Challenges for the next government

Vinous added,

“[The next government] is going to need to do more with less… We will see more things being done digitally because they are cheaper. [And] if people can’t access services, we will see a widening in inequality.”

Government’s role in inclusive digital transformation

All experts agree: the Government must play a more active role in ensuring digital transformation is inclusive. Our manifesto outlines five key clear asks: collaborate to fix the digital divide, help adults get vital digital help, reuse tech for social good, ensure equity in connectivity, and signpost our work on frontline services.

An emboldening call to action

Liz Williams concluded with an emboldening call to action:

“If the Government has a very clear vision, and its convening power, that is a massive game changer. This is not a problem to solve; this is an opportunity to realise. This is about revitalising our communities.”

Tune in to more Digital Future for Good episodes

Our Digital Futures for Good series will continue to feature thought leaders, policymakers, and experts in digital inclusion, highlighting ideas for enhancing digital access, literacy, confidence, and safety. The next episode is:

  • Dr. Sam Shah and Dr. Minal Bakhai on digital inclusion and healthcare on 31st July

The series will host multiple interviews and events throughout the year. Feel free to share thoughts and comments, which may be included in a year-end report or addressed by upcoming guests.

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