A new report from Vodafone and WPI Strategy has found that digital literacy is becoming as important in people’s lives as reading and writing. For young people, these skills are going to be necessary to have good life chances according to the report. To ensure youngsters get these skills, the report calls on government, business, charity partners and civil society to address the impact of the digital divide.
The new report is called No One Left Behind, the UK’s Digital Divide in 2021 and shows how the digital divide doesn’t only affect older people and those with poor internet connections but also those who are financially and socially disadvantaged too. It’s common for people to say that a smartphone and an internet connection are luxury items, but this is increasingly false as more aspects of life demand you to have these products and services.
One area which the report focused on, in particular, was the role of technology under the coronavirus. Many people were asked to work from home, bank and access public services online and even order groceries online. Those without online access couldn’t do these things and either had to continue interacting face-to-face, exposing themselves to the virus, or rely on others to help them.
The digital divide only compounds the issues around digital literacy, according to the report. It found that 23% in the lowest income households were not confident using a search engine to access government services to apply for a passport; this figure decreased to 5% in the richest households. Using this information, the report suggested that the most vulnerable in society are at risk of not being able to access essential support which is more and more moving online.
Lacking digital literacy skills also appears to hurt employment chances. The report found that 63% of those looking for work say they would benefit from digital skills training compared to just 36% of the general population. Vodafone believes this shows employability could be directly linked with digital skills.
Finally, the report said that the digital divide meant families had to make a choice over whether parents did their work on the computer or gave it up for their child to continue with their school lessons. Of the respondents, 29% said they were forced into this choice during the past year meaning that either the parent's work or the child’s education was affected while those in richer households could perform both tasks concurrently, allowing them to get ahead in life.
Commenting on Vodafone UK would play a part in addressing the issue, CEO Ahmed Essam said:
“At Vodafone we have put tackling digital inclusion at the heart of our business with our commitment to connect one million people by the end of 2022.”
The new report is now available for download for those who want to read it.