We can’t delay: It’s time to Fix the Digital Divide

It’s not OK to leave millions of people locked out of the digital world, says our Chief Executive Helen Milner. That's why we've launched our 2021 Blueprint to Fix the Digital Divide and are calling on the Government to act now.

On Friday Lloyds Banking Group published this year’s Essential Digital Skills survey results. Although there has been marked improvement for people who last year had some of the essential digital skills, the survey paints a depressing picture for those at the bottom of the skills ladder.

The pandemic definitely has exposed and exacerbated the digital divide, leaving people with multiple social challenges still left behind. 10 million people still struggle with the very basic digital skills needed to function in today’s digital world. You can see the key stats in our annual state of the nation: Digital Nation 2021.

It’s not OK to leave millions of people locked out of essential services and support, locked out of the digital world, locked out of jobs, savings, health and well-being, locked out of connection with loved ones.

That’s why today we’ve launched our 2021 Blueprint to Fix the Digital Divide. Our Blueprint is facing up to the Government to call for leadership and action from them. This leadership is essential to lead comprehensive, cross-sector action to truly fix the digital divide.

Let’s put digital at the heart of our recovery: so everyone has better lives through digital; so prosperity is evenly spread, levelling up our nation; so no-one is left behind in the digital revolution.

In the UK we’re world-leaders as a tech powerhouse, but the digital divide holds us back. This is a fixable problem, the pandemic showed me that we must fix the digital divide, for good.

That’s why we’re calling on this Government to put digital inclusion at the heart of COVID-19 recovery, harness the appetite for change, and take decisive action to fix the digital divide.

A dynamic Digital Strategy for a tech-savvy, digitally-included nation will deliver against these three goals:

  1. Digital Skills: So everyone can use the internet for life and work
  2. Community Support: So everyone has somewhere local to go for internet help
  3. Affordable Internet: So everyone has the everyday internet access they need

And we have five clear asks of Government:

Digital Skills: So everyone can use the internet for life and work

  1.  The Government to lead a national plan with clear actions to up-skill the 10 million people who lack the very basic foundation skills needed for our digital world.
  2. The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to lead cross-Government work so digital inclusion is built into all policies and initiatives that support the Levelling Up agenda.
  3. HM Treasury to back the Combined Authorities leading the way on digital inclusion, investing in pilots to deliver shared prosperity and recovery.

Community Support: So everyone has somewhere local to go for internet help

  1. Growing a national network of at least 10,000 trusted places where people can get community help with digital inclusion – reaching into villages, towns and cities, and supporting COVID-19 recovery.

Affordable internet: So everyone has the everyday internet access they need

  1. As part of its Digital Strategy, the Government to work with telcos and others to drive the actions needed to end data poverty by 2024.

If you agree that it’s not OK to leave millions of people behind and to hold the nation back then make some noise:

  • Go onto social media and share our messages, share our Blueprint and our Digital Nation 2021. Use Good Things Foundation’s hashtag #FixTheDigitalDivide.
  • If you’re a local organisation who is doing digital inclusion then please join our movement for digital inclusion (it’s free) and together we can make action locally and scale it nationally.
  • Write to your MP and tell them it’s not OK.

By working together, across sectors, locally and nationally, we can do this. The digital divide does not need to exist. With leadership and dedicated action we can #FixTheDigitalDivide.

Let’s get this done.

Helen Milner OBE

Group Chief Executive

Helen Milner OBE is the Group Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation. Founded as a staff-led mutual charity in the UK in 2011, Helen led the establishment of a subsidiary charity, opening an office in Sydney in August 2017, and running the Be Connected Network for the Australian Government.

Helen has over 30 years experience of working in and leading organisations creating and delivering education over and about the internet. She was awarded an OBE for services to digital inclusion in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.