It’s time the Government invests in fixing the digital divide

Good Things Foundation's Policy and Advocacy Assistant, Urko Beltran de Guevara, explains why we need urgent action from the Government to invest in digital inclusion, following the recent House of Lords debate.

The recent House of Lords debate on digital exclusion highlighted how accessing crucial services has become increasingly difficult for people, especially as more banks, post offices, and rail ticket offices shut down. All of our lives have moved online and increasing isolation in society is a growing concern. 

Baroness Harding has called on the government to take immediate action to tackle the digital divide. And it’s not just the House of Lords calling for urgent action – people in the UK believe more should be done too.

A recent survey by Good Things Foundation revealed that 76% of people believe the government should invest in digital inclusion. The same survey reported that 21% of people online feel left behind by technology.

The Scope and impact of digital exclusion

In this digital age lacking access, skills, and support to navigate the online world leaves people and the economy significantly worse off. The Lords’ debate revealed that “the shortage of digital skills is costing the UK economy £63 billion a year” (Baroness Stowell of Beeston.) By investing in digital literacy, connectivity, and access, we can unlock growth and drive forward the UK’s economy, enhancing the quality of life for all.

As Baroness Lane Fox argued in the debate: ‘It’s the economy stupid’, digital inclusion is not just about social justice, technological access, or some niche challenge afflicting a single demographic, it affects all age groups and is tied to economic progress. Ignoring the digital divide means sidelining a significant portion of our workforce and potential innovators, exacerbating skill gaps, and ultimately hampering our economic growth. Investing in digital inclusion is investing in the future of our economy, ensuring that nobody is left behind.

Government’s lack of progress

The Lords’ repeated their claim that the Government’s political lethargy has exacerbated the digital divide. ‘Their previous strategy is 10 years old and is now in the National Archives’, Baroness Foster pointed out earlier this month, highlighting stark neglect in updating and refining their approach that is constantly growing in complexity and urgency. This does not just undermine confidence, as Baroness Stowell pointed out, but represents a disconnect between government and the evolving digital world. 

The urgent need for action

A new strategy is not a silver bullet, it’s what it represents which is essential. That’s why Good Things Foundation calls for an action plan, signalling a commitment to proactive, forward-thinking leadership. Without this, the government’s stance not only remains outdated but also alarmingly out of touch with the harsh realities of millions grappling with digital exclusion amidst a worsening cost-of-living crisis.

Join the launch of our new conversation series: ‘Digital Futures For Good’ on March 7th to find out what Baroness Dido Harding and Baroness Anna Healy would do to tackle and fix the digital divide for good.  You can be amongst the first to watch this conversation alongside expert commentary from:

  • Helen Milner, Group CEO, Good Things Foundation
  • Liz Williams, CEO, Future Dot Now
  • Hafsha Dadabhai Shaikh, Director, SmartLyte and Get Families Talking

Don’t miss the opportunity to delve into expert insights and to learn about impactful policies. Please join us at ‘Digital Futures For Good’ and be a part of this crucial discussion.

Urko Beltran de Guevara

Policy and Advocacy Assistant

Urko plays a crucial role at Good Things Foundation, significantly strengthening its impact in policy-making and advocacy. His work, typically involving in-depth research and strategic engagement with policymakers, is underscored by an unwavering commitment to promoting digital inclusion.