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Report of the Digital Government Review

Appendix B – Funding Digital Inclusion

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The government has stated that it believes that just under 10% of the UK population will be left without basic digital skills by 2020 [180]. We strongly believe that it is morally wrong that a sizeable percentage of the population, one which is already disadvantaged with more than its share of disability, unemployment and old age, is excluded from the benefits of digital. A new government should feel obliged to do what it can to correct this injustice. However we realise that even moral crusades need to be paid for. This Appendix sets out the economic case for funding digital inclusion.

The Tinder Foundation’s report “A leading digital nation by 2020″ [181] sets out a compelling case for investing in digital inclusion. It recommends setting a target of as near as possible to 100% digital inclusion by 2020, defining inclusion as the ability to carry out defined simple online tasks. Near 100% rates of inclusion have already been achieved in countries like Norway (98%). The costs to achieve the inclusion target are calculated as £875 million.

The report recommends that the required funding is split equally between the government, private sector and third sector organisations, £292 million each over the 2015-20 period. Initially this would be likely to be a scale up of existing activity but over time we believe new initiatives will be needed to help the nation reach the goal of digital inclusion.

Once the goal is set, the government contribution is funded and additional activities start then we expect the “halo effect” to bring in additional support from the private and voluntary sector to help the nation reach the goal.

The private sector has a clear interest in getting more people online. The digitally excluded are potential employees, consumers or partners. Based on current private sector contributions to inclusion activities we would expect most support to focus on either access and equipment or companies providing training to their staff.

We would encourage more private sector focus on access and equipment. These are services that the private sector provides to citizens and offering low-price deals to either excluded citizens or to public sector organisations deploying free equipment through social infrastructure, such as libraries, will complement a government focus on skills.

The voluntary sector is already providing valuable support to inclusion activities largely through the efforts of volunteers offering their time and suitable premises to provide basic training in online skills. There are estimated to be as many as 25000 individuals providing their time free of charge through UK Online Centres and 15000 individuals contributing time through Go ON UK’s Digital Skills initiatives. Similarly some social housing providers are already working on digital inclusion initiatives. We believe that a high profile and well-publicised national campaign to tackle digital inclusion would encourage even more third sector organisations and individuals to volunteer.

[181] A Leading Digital Nation by 2020: Calculating the cost of delivering online skills for all: What is the investment needed to get everyone in the UK using the internet regularly with Basic Online Skills?” Report by Catherine McDonald, for Tinder Foundation and Go ON UK, February 2014

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