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Nominet and the Learning Foundation have joined forces to launch a taskforce aimed at tackling digital exclusion throughout the UK.
The organisations launched Digital Access for All (DAFA) after the Learning Foundation looked into third-party data sources and found that one million children and young people in the UK do not have access to digital.
Partners of the taskforce will commit to designing and delivering solutions to the problem of digital exclusion, with the overall aim of ensuring all children and young people have the same access to digital across the UK.
One of the founding partners, Lord James Knight, said: “Digital Access For All recognises the excellent work being carried out across the UK in the area of digital skills and the inclusion agenda. However, we believe that the issue of access is critical at a time when there are still upward of one million children and young people and their families who don’t have adequate access to a device or connectivity at home.”
Nominet and the Learning Foundation said DAFA was created following the education minister’s announcement that free early learning apps will be launched to support the education of disadvantaged children across the UK.
At the launch, the organisations asked: “How can the disadvantaged benefit from this if they don’t have digital access in the first place?”
Not having the skills to use digital or having access to digital technology can put people on the back foot for many reasons, they said. In some cases, it means people cannot take advantage of money-saving opportunities, whereas for others, it means not having access to education.
Paul Finnis, CEO of the Learning Foundation, said: “Digital Access For All is a determined effort to unlock solutions to the challenge of digital exclusion so that every young person, and their family, can have adequate access in the home so they can build the skills, confidence and enjoy opportunities for their future in a digital society.”
Initial partner organisations for DAFA include Intel, Lloyds Bank, Microsoft, Argos, BT, Carnegie UK Trust, Computer Recyclers, the Good Things Foundation and the Greater London Authority.
Knight and Baroness Diana Harding – another founding partner for the taskforce – will work with DAFA partners to develop pilot schemes testing different ways to reach the digitally excluded across the UK.
Read more about digital exclusion
- A report from the Good Things Foundation highlights the economic risks of failing to address digital exclusion in the UK.
- Active use of smart meter technology to manage domestic gas and electricity consumption is highest among wealthier socio-economic groups, and this indicator of digital exclusion shows little sign of changing, according to a report from energy regulator Ofgem.
Research by partner firm Lloyds Bank has informed the taskforce’s initial funding decisions and pilots. Lloyds found that 700,000 people do not have access to digital devices at home, 6% of young people are still using dial-up to connect to the internet, and 76% of 11 to 15-year-olds say it would be difficult to finish their homework without the internet.
The risks posed by being digitally excluded include poor health, social isolation, the inability to complete basic digital tasks expected of modern life, such as to apply for jobs, and the possibility of being excluded from a number of essential services that are moving online.
Research from the Carnegie UK Trust aimed at helping to steer the taskforce in the right direction also found that difficulties in accessing digital can be compounded for young people who are in a poor socio-economic or rural location, which is not helped by the “digital policy landscape”, which can vary depending on local government.
Eleanor Bradley, COO at Nominet, said: “As a leading digital nation, the UK needs to ensure that all of its citizens are able to engage, participate and benefit from everything that being online can offer. With Digital Access For All, our goal is to test and shape a number of pilot initiatives to provide tangible solutions that ensure all young people have the opportunity to reach their potential in a society that is now digital by default.”
DAFA and its partners will begin to develop pilots for UK-wide digital access for young people over the next six months.