Millions of British children are set to become digitally unskilled workers unless action is taken now, according to charity group the Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA).
It claims that the UK economy could be stifled, and young people’s job prospects hampered, if the government doesn’t address the digital skills gap that’s not just present but growing.
Digital poverty encompasses not just the skills needed to effectively get online, but also the tools to do so – be that through not being able to afford enough mobile data or even having no broadband at home. Such scenarios feed into digital under-skilling, which could also impact employability.
Already, some 82% of jobs in the UK require digital skills – a figure that’s only expected to rise further still over the years ahead.
Now, the DPA has called on the government to take action, not only to boost the prospects of children growing up in digital poverty, but better guarantee the success of the UK’s wider economic prospects.
The charity’s COO, Elizabeth Anderson, told UKTN: “There are at least 6% of the population, probably more, who are permanently offline. That rises to nearly three million when you just look at people who’ve not used the internet in the last three months.”
Anderson went on to explain how digital connectivity should be seen as a right, not a luxury, in today’s world; noting that people wouldn’t move into a house without running water, but some are expected to simply do without the internet.
The DPA has welcomed recent announcements to try and bridge the digital skills gap, but said they lacked the specifics needed to enact real change. The announcements were, Anderson said, too “broad brush” – simply touching instead on the need to improve the quality and uptake of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in the classroom. Instead, the DPA is calling for teacher training to actively include digital skills, and for schools to provide pupils with all the equipment needed to get online.