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Initiative offers £1.5m for 15 projects to reduce digital exclusion across UK

Initiative spearheaded by Good Things Foundation and JP Morgan awards funding to 15 projects with the aim of closing the digital divide

The Good Things Foundation and JP Morgan have worked together to fund projects across the UK aimed at closing the digital skills gap and, in turn, the digital divide.

The initiative, dubbed Power Up, is offering £1.5m shared across 15 projects with the aim of improving digital skills across the UK to increase social inclusion.

Helen Milner, chief executive of the Good Things Foundation, said all the projects are all using digital technologies in various ways – either to close the digital divide or to provide services.

“We believe everyone should have the skills, confidence and access to be able to take advantage of technology – and we’re aiming for 100% digital inclusion in the UK,” she said. “We are delighted to be working with JP Morgan on this project, which will go some way to achieving that.”

Power Up was developed to support existing initiatives aimed at increasing people’s employability, as well as pushing for changes to local systems to increase digital inclusion, developing partnerships and ensuring there is ongoing support for the development of digital skills.  

The 15 projects to receive funding, located in Bournemouth, east London, Edinburgh and Glasgow, include:

  • Ansbury Guidance, which will help to deploy digital across existing organisations in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole by leading a consortium of organisations in these areas.
  • Poplar Harca Housing Association in east London, which will use digital champion volunteers to help local residents who are unemployed, in low pay or insecure work, or have poor English language skills.
  • Glasgow Life, which aims to help businesses across the city find the digital skills they need.
  • Digiparent, a project in Edinburgh that aims to give digital skills and employability to single parents in the city.

About 700,000 people in the UK do not have access to digital devices at home, and more than half don’t have the digital skills needed to complete basic tasks, preventing them from taking part in activities such as online shopping or looking for work.

It has been found that those who do not know how to use online services miss out on hundreds of pounds in potential savings that could be gleaned through online shopping each year, while those who do have knowledge of digital are more likely to have larger average salaries than those who don’t, according to the Good Things Foundation.

In other areas, the digital divide is putting some industries in danger. Although professionals in industries such as healthcare and the government are open to the idea of digital, there is still little knowledge about where it can be applied or how to use it.

Dan Zinkin, managing director, global technology for digital investment banking at JP Morgan, said: “The 2019 Power Up grantees have put forward very exciting approaches to embed digital skills into their existing support and training programmes. We are confident that these organisations and programmes can help bridge the digital divide in the UK. Through grant funding and capacity building, the Power Up grantees can create a lasting impact among vulnerable communities in east London, Bournemouth, Glasgow and Edinburgh.”

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As well as funding, help will be given to each of the projects by the Good Things Foundation during the Power Up programme, which begins this month and runs until April 2021, with the aim of helping the projects to carry on unaided after the programme has finished.

A number of other initiatives have been put in place across the UK to increase the use of digital and boost people’s digital skills.

Nominet and the Learning Foundation launched a taskforce in early 2019 with the aim of tackling digital exclusion in the UK, and Ofqual launched a consultation on the delivery of basic digital skills at the end of 2018 to advise on the delivery of basic digital skills for adults and gain advice on how best to design and deliver these qualifications.  

More recently, the government called for applications for an initiative aimed at increasing skills in rural areas of the UK, backed by almost £1m in funding, and the Lord Mayor of the City of London launched the initiative to tackle the digital sector’s “image problem” and increase the UK’s digital skills.

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