Regional leaders can ‘shift dial’ on digital divide, says report

Our new Digital Inclusion Roadmap proposes strategies for Combined Authorities to tackle digital exclusion and enable disadvantaged communities to access vital services

Regional leaders in England must act now to take a golden opportunity to close the digital divide, according to a new report from social change charity Good Things Foundation and Capita.

According to Ofcom figures, at least 1.5 million households in the UK lack internet access at home – while 14.9 million people have very low levels of digital engagement according to the Lloyds Consumer Digital Index (CDI) 2021.

Levels of internet use vary from region to region. But the new report – ‘Digital Inclusion: A Roadmap For Combined Authorities’ – argues that it’s possible for leaders to shift the dial on regional digital inequality.

It highlights that the Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber made big leaps in usage since 2020, according to Lloyds CDI 2021 data.

The Roadmap also highlights that over two-thirds of people would improve their digital skills – if they knew there was support available to help them if they needed it.

In publishing the report, Good Things Foundation and Capita aim to kickstart new conversations at a regional level and inspire senior leaders to integrate digital inclusion into wider strategy and policy.

The Roadmap provides practical ideas for those charged with developing digital inclusion strategies. It sets out the case for action by Combined Authorities in England – inspired by what’s been happening in the West Midlands and in Greater Manchester, under the Mayoral leadership of Andy Street and Andy Burnham. 

It builds on the actions of many hundreds of digital inclusion champions across the country – in communities, local authorities, libraries, charities and corporates – over many years. 

Helen Milner OBE, Group Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation, said: “Combined Authorities – with their unique role and reach – have the chance to prevent the digital divide widening and deepening.

“As a society, we’re leaving too many people behind, without the device, data or basic skills needed for an increasingly digital world. We have an opportunity, right now, to be truly ambitious when it comes to achieving 100% digital inclusion. Let’s make sure we work together and take it.”

Andy Start, CEO, Capita Public Service, said: “The pandemic has accelerated digital inclusion to the top of the agenda. People from all backgrounds need access to the devices, data and skills required to navigate today’s digital world.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Good Things Foundation to launch this roadmap and supporting the development of a new model for digital inclusion at scale, which will create better outcomes for communities across England.” 

Digital Inclusion: A Roadmap For Combined Authorities is available to download from our website.