mystery person imageSo just who is looking out for the digitally excluded?

According to the Governments stats “82% of the UK Population are currently online” which sounds impressive but actually if you turn it around it means nearly 1 in 5 are not. Next time you are in a pub or at the market look around you and think about what 1 in 5 looks like. That’s a lot of people!

Of course if you have the misfortune to need to go into a Job Centre Plus that figure will be much higher, as it will if you meet a group of disabled or elderly people. And these tend to be people already experiencing social disadvantage.

So who has the job of doing something about this?

The recently announced Digital Advisory Board has many worthy members, who I am sure will contribute a lot to the grand strategy,  but a quick scan of the list doesn’t produce any obvious candidates for a champion with an understanding of the issues digitally excluded people face.

Similarly the recent Digital by Default Strategy and the Assisted Digital Strategy that followed make clear that they “do not specifically cover ways to increase the digital capability of UK citizens”

This is understandable since the 2 strategies are essentially about service delivery but given the scale of the savings that these strategies aim to achieve (£2.7bn a year?) surely there is a case for using some of those savings to help tackle digital exclusion. Which is not the same as putting money into Assisted Digital!

If we use some of the substantial savings to tackle digital exclusion everyone wins. Less people will be excluded from the benefits of technology, the savings from Digital by Default will be achieved quicker and the costs of the Assisted Digital programme reduced.

As far as I can tell current efforts to tackle digital exclusion rests with Go online which laudable though it is, is a charity. There is lots of good work being done in the field through community centres and individual champions but there is no overall control, plan or strategy or more importantly leadership, from the Government.

Seems to me we have massive spends and potential savings for the 82% who are online and no plan or government responsibility for the 18% who are not.

I am not sure that this is either fair to individuals, or sensible in terms of government policy and spend.

It will be interesting to see how the Digital Advisory Board tackle what seems clearly to be a gap in the grand plan i.e. no one is really taking responsibility for helping 8m digitally excluded people.

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