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Coronavirus: Parliamentary group asks how lockdown has affected digital skills

All Party Parliamentary Group on Digital Skills launches call to action to find out if lessons learnt in lockdown could help build digital skills policy in the future

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Digital Skills has launched a call for evidence to assess what impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on digital skills, and whether anything learnt during the outbreak could contribute to improve digital skills going forward.

The call for evidence asks any submissions to answer questions such as what issues organisations have faced during the pandemic, how they have adapted to these issues, as well as the move towards remote working or learning, and what recommendations could be made for policy makers to increase digital skills in the future.

“I’m pleased to announce that the APPG on Digital Skills is launching a call to evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on the digital skills sector, to learn what issues have emerged in the country during the past few months, and how we can take what we have learned into the future,” said Julie Elliott MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Digital Skills.

“We are keen to hear from leading businesses, educators, financial services representatives, trade associations, charities, local government and many more, to understand what needs to be done to ensure that we can improve digital skills into the future, in a sustainable and innovative way,” she added.

As pointed out in the APPG’s call for evidence, the lockdown resulting from the pandemic has forced a number of activities online, such as shopping and access to healthcare, while many people are also using technology to work from home or educate children at home while schools and offices are closed.

The APPG said in some cases this has allowed organisations to be “creative and flexible” when it comes to keeping calm and carrying on, examples of which the group is keen to hear about.

“We are keen to hear from leading businesses, educators, financial services representatives, trade associations, charities, local government and many more, to understand what needs to be done to improve digital skills into the future”
Julie Elliott, APPG on Digital Skills

But this increase in reliance on technology has also shone a light on the digital divide in the UK, with some unable to use technology to carry out the things they need to do.  

This digital divide existed before the coronavirus outbreak, but may have been highlighted as people unable to use technology or access the internet may have no way of completing day-to-day tasks while in lockdown.

Less than half of adults had the digital skills needed to complete basic tasks before the coronavirus outbreak, and an increase in the use of digital as a result of working from home during lockdown has made it clear where people are lacking in skills.

It’s also highlighted the difference between firms that have been prepared for tech innovation and those that have not.

The APPG on Digital Skills was set up in 2019 to raise awareness of the importance of digital skills throughout government, highlighting the importance of ensuring people have digital skills, and working with MPs to “champion digital skills in communities, education and the workplace”.

The group has worked closely with a number of organisations geared towards this goal, including FutureDotNow, and is supported by partnerships with firms such as BT, Google, City & Guilds, and the Education Technology Association.                

The call for evidence to find out how people’s use of technology and digital skills has been affected by lockdown is part of the group’s wider goal to keep the need for digital skills at the forefront of the government’s mind, and determine how the government can support the development of digital skills policy going forward.

As well as looking for examples of how organisations have responded to a potential need for digital skills during the pandemic, the APPG is asking for case studies, statistics and examples of how organisations have coped with the pandemic, and whether this is likely to be useful in improving digital skills in those organisations going forward.

While the call for evidence has already circulated around the APPG’s distribution list, it is open to anyone, and submissions are being accepted until 5pm on 3 July 2020.

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