The UK Government published a national digital strategy in March 2017, setting out how the country should develop a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone. One of the seven key strands was 'Skills and Inclusion - giving everyone access to the digital skills they need'.
Shortly after this, Marketing Gloucester Ltd (MGL) drafted an initial vision statement “Future City of 2050 by 2025: A Digital Strategy for Gloucester”. This looked at the place of Gloucester in the context of a fast-changing technological world, the threats and opportunities that this posed, and set out a vision for Gloucester to become a digital pathfinder ‘testbed’ for future city technologies and solutions. This comprehensive digital strategy was adopted by Gloucester City Council in February 2019.
Over the next few years, Marketing Gloucester and the UK:DRIC will be promoting skills, access and inclusion – making sure that no-one in Gloucester is discriminated against, nor gets left behind the digital revolution, including all residents and SMEs.
With the public sector, private sector and individuals becoming more reliant on the internet there is a growing need to ensure that digital inclusion is a priority to ensure social cohesion and a functioning society.5 Research published by the BBC has found that 21% of Britain’s population lack the basic digital skills and capabilities required to realise the benefits of the internet.
Around a third of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) don’t have a website, and when we include voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs) this figure rises to 50%. Independent analysts Booz and Co. estimate full digital take up could add £63 billion value to the UK economy.
“Digital participation – helping everyone to get online and maximise the benefits of digital technology – is arguably one of the great social challenges of our age. We know the great advantages that being digitally connected can offer – improved employment opportunities, higher levels of educational attainment, cheaper goods and products and better access to public services.
However, too often those who are excluded from these benefits are the very same people who are also disadvantaged according to most other social and economic measures. This means that digital technology – the great enabling force of the 21st century – is actually exacerbating rather than bridging long-standing inequalities in our society.
It doesn’t have to be this way – and all of us who interested in improving wellbeing have a role in tackling this issue”. (Quote Douglas White, Head of Advocacy at the Carnegie UK Trust)