Industry heavyweights discussed ways in which the UK can deliver digital skills to fulfill the country’s economic potential at the 8th National Digital Conference, ND13: Going Digital this week.
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Over 250 senior government, business and non-governmental organisation (NGO) leaders attended the two-day event.
The first day of the conference focused on digital skills and the creation of strategies to ensure no-one is excluded from taking part in the digital economy, regardless of location or social class.
Recent figures revealed that 16 million people in the UK are lacking basic digital skills and 90% of all jobs will require ICT skills by 2015.
Present at the conference was UK digital champion Martha Lane Fox (pictured), who explained the biggest challenge behind getting more people online: “The cultural challenge is the biggest challenge. Inspiring that culture to change, to think that technology is something good not something scary and new,” said Martha Lane Fox.
Referring to Go On UK’s founding partners BBC, TalkTalk, Age UK, Lloyds Banking Group and Post Office, she noted that each of the companies will message the use of technology differently, therefore reaching a larger audience.
“Telecoms adverts, for example, are very difficult to understand and I’ve worked in technology all my life. You need to message the benefits of technology not the cost, access, speed, etc,” she said.
More on IT skills
Lane Fox continued: “It’s important to think of the possibility of what could be achieved when all are at 100% connectivity. So, anyone can start a business, comment on a new article, sign a petition and so on.
“If I were prime minister for the day, I would make sure everyone – regardless of where they live or money they have – had access to technology.”
Hugh Milward, director of corporate affairs at Microsoft, agreed by saying: “Unless all users have access we will have a large disconnect of people that can’t take part in this revolution.”
Laura Robertson-Collins, from Liverpool City Council, promoted the Go On Liverpool project, which was completed in the city two years ago.
She explained how, in June 2011, some 104,000 adults (29%) in Liverpool had never been online, compared with 17% nationally. Over 18 months 1,500 digital champions were recruited to deliver training and, in turn, 43,000 people started using the internet.
The campaign was backed by all 90 local councillors and 80 local partners showed their support by promoting the Go On UK message to their local community.
Jeh Kazimi, founder and chief executive of Breezie, believes the issue of getting people online lies in simplifying technology: “The digital divide is not necessarily an issue of cost, or whether someone likes technology or not, but of the speed of which technology evolves. This is faster than the speed that people can learn.
“Software engineers and developers need to simplify technology more, so apps for example can be used by anyone.”
Get connected with the Post Office
Mark Davies, communications director was present from the Post Office to announce that, in partnership with Go On UK, the organisation is offering a free service where counter staff print out the nearest internet access points to customers’ homes.
Available at 11,800 Post Office branches, the Get Connected database holds the details of over 5,000 online centres, including libraries and business centres, which are available for either online training or internet access.
ND13: Going Digital was hosted in association with Go On UK, Lasa, and Rewired State.