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Digital inclusion in 2023: Predictions for the digital skills landscape in the year ahead

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Sally Caughey, UK Head of Digital Inclusion at Capgemini

While the latest research from the 2022 Lloyds Bank Consumer Digital Index suggests that 99% of people in the UK now make use of the internet (up significantly from 89% in 2016), a major gap remains when it comes to digital inclusivity.

The same report establishes that, currently, around 14 million people in Britain (a rather sizeable 27% of the population) still have the lowest digital capability. This means they’re not only likely to struggle to interact with online services but are at risk of being left out of society.

While the pandemic proved to be somewhat of a catalyst for the increase in digital inclusion, it’s clear that such inclusivity is as much a social issue as it is technological. How do we see this landscape shaping up in 2023? Are things set to improve? Here are my predictions for the year ahead…

Employers becoming more involved in building digital skills

According to the UK government’s Skills Funding Agency, 90% of all jobs will require some form of digital skill in the next 10-20 years before an applicant can obtain or even apply for a position. Digital skills aren’t just about deep tech; they’re something most future jobs will require as standard. Basic digital skills are already crucial for many roles, especially since we’ve witnessed a general shift to virtual working.

And so, as we move forward into 2023, we can expect an increasing number of employers offering support in the form of digital upskilling – ensuring their workforce is equipped with the expertise needed in an ever-increasing digital age.

Meanwhile, there’s been significant growth in the number of positions available for those with advanced skill sets, such as software developers and engineers. Since 2014, for example,the number of vacancies seeking Microsoft C# language skills within the legal services sector has exploded by 320% according to the PSBC, and a 1,000% increase in demand for Python within the accounting and auditing industry.

As business and educators increasingly realise, they need to work together to prepare the workforce with the skills needed for the future – so that individuals can access opportunities that interest them, and companies are able to hire people with the skillsets they require. 

Those not in employment will need the most support

With many everyday digital skills developed within a workplace, the people most likely to need support during 2023 and beyond will fall into three groups. These are: the young or those about to start their careers who need encouragement to think about the wider opportunities that digital brings; those who are unemployed who need the skills to find work; and the retired or over 75s.

In particular, age will continue to be an important correlating factor of basic digital capability. Without further additional intervention, 5.8 million people are estimated to remain digitally excluded by the end of 2032, according to a report for the Good Things Foundation, 3.7 million of which are in the over 75s age group.

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As more essential government, financial and utility provider services move online, it matters that individuals of all ages are able to access these. For example, according to Lloyds Bank, one-third of those who don’t have the digital dexterity to navigate online environments struggle to interact with healthcare services. And, for young people and the unemployed, access to digital skills training can help them unlock their potential as they start careers.

A localised, personal approach will remain the best way to reach people outside of work

I predict that over the coming year, people will continue to require a way of learning that reflects their own individual needs. For example, for those with less confidence and lower digital abilities, a tailored personalised approach will remain key. They’ll prefer to learn face-to-face, via e-learning, with phone support or via people they know, such as through friends and family.

Creative community led responses to digital skills deficits will remain key to offering digital upskilling opportunities and the wider ecosystems of access, government support and philanthropy will be important enablers, for example, through town centres that invest in Wi-Fi, provision of devices and local Digital Champions. Local leaders know their areas best and, as a Tech UK report states: “better collaboration locally, digital champions and broadening engagement are needed to help champion and secure improved digital connectivity”. This will be complemented by local charities embedding digital skills as part of the community services they already provide.

Organisations will take an increasingly collaborative approach in tackling digital poverty

The landscape of organisations assisting to improve digital inclusion will continue to become increasingly organised and collaborative in 2023, with organisations carving out clear roles for themselves and how they assist with digital poverty initiatives. 

For example, the Digital Poverty Alliance was recently born out of the realisation that tackling the digital divide and achieving digital equity requires systemic, cross-sector and collaborative change. The body has brought together community organisations, corporates, and academic experts with an aim to create a National Delivery Plan and end digital poverty in the UK by 2030.

Other organisations have also very clearly defined their roles in recent years. Take Digital Unite, for example, which focuses on education and learning, the Good Things Foundation, which supports access to basic digital infrastructure such as devices and data, and Future.Now, which focuses on the employers’ role.

These are very welcome and productive developments that will facilitate quicker progress in tackling digital exclusion and easier collaboration.

By Sally Caughey, UK Head of Digital Inclusion at Capgemini.

Digital inclusion in 2023: Predictions for the digital skills landscape in the year ahead was published on FE News by Sally Caughey

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