Once upon a time digital was ‘a thing’. It existed in parallel to the ‘real world’.
But today almost everything is digital.
Money, employment, entertainment, education, shopping, health – if you’re connected and capable you can do it all better, faster and easier. The thing is, that’s a much bigger ‘if’ than you might think – almost one in four of the adult British population doesn’t have the Basic Digital Skills to be properly included in this digital world.
Go ON UK is a charity with the sole aim of including all of us in the digital world. We spoke to its CEO, Rachel Neaman.
“Literacy and Numeracy were the two fundamental skills that allowed people to contribute fully to society and achieve their potential. Today Digital Literacy has joined them.”
Go ON UK works with partners across all sectors to improve Basic Digital Skills across the UK. Their aim is not just to gather individuals into the digital fold, but businesses and charities too. This is vital if Britain is to compete on the global economic stage.
“You might expect that digital exclusion was primarily a problem for the elderly, but just over 50% of the digitally excluded are over 65. And equally, it’s a myth that all young people are so-called digital natives – just being familiar with social media and SMS does not enable a young person to contribute economically or work towards their potential.”
In fact, being able to communicate digitally is only one of the five Basic Digital Skills: mastering Facebook and Instagram is no help in finding work. Learning one of the other five basic skills – creating documents of your own – is essential to job hunting though.
“Inclusion means different things for different people. Everyone needs some ability in each of the five basic skills, but specific circumstances will dictate how much of each skill someone needs.”
Go ON UK is not a frontline charity – they are not on the street teaching digital skills. Instead they work with partner organisations – both private and public – to understand the real issues at play, and foster digital inclusion. Lloyds Banking Group is one of their Board partners – others include The Post Office, E.ON and TalkTalk. Go ON UK works closely with the Government but is not a part of Government.
“Lloyds Banking Group has been a fantastic and seriously committed partner for us. Its research has been vital to our getting a picture of the state of digital inclusion in the UK – last year it looked closely at the digital state of Britain’s SMEs and charities and this year its also publishing for the first time a report into the digital abilities of UK consumers.”
Beyond giving Go ON UK a clearer picture of digital Britain, Lloyds Banking Group is helping the charity to establish the most practical, effective ways of reaching and teaching the excluded.
“There are two ongoing projects, one in Lewisham and one in Croydon, through which we’re assessing techniques for giving basic digital skills to the people who need them. Lloyds Bank is giving us vital help. It has set up ‘digital zones’ in branches across both boroughs, where its Digital Champions are ready to offer help to anyone that needs it. We can’t predict what uptake will be like following these projects, but regardless, it will give us valuable information about how best to reach different people.”
Another project being powered by Lloyds Banking Group will see young people who are digitally capable but neither employed nor in any form of education or training teaming up with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
“The idea is for the business to draw on young people’s digital skills, whilst the “apprentice” gets a start in the employment market. A simple win-win.”
There is one not entirely altruistic reason why organisations like Lloyds Banking Group see digital inclusion as such a crucial issue – as their operations become ever more digital, the last thing they want is for great swathes of the population to be left behind.
What use is the bank, the Post Office or even the government if large numbers of people can’t access them?
Like the Government or the Post Office, Lloyds Banking Group is too big not to care about digital inclusion.
But Lloyds Banking Group’s – and other businesses’ – readiness to throw precious resources at digital inclusion owes something to their values too.
“I’ve experienced a genuine personal commitment from people at Lloyds Banking Group to our project – Miguel-Ángel Rodríguez-Sola (Group Director of Digital) sits on the board of Go ON UK and Nick Williams (Consumer Digital Director) and Leigh Smyth (Head of Group Digital Inclusion) are passionate leaders driving this agenda forward. Together they’ve been a powerhouse. And of course the growing number of Digital Champions, now at over 11,000, who are giving invaluable time and know-how on the ground are also deeply committed.”
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