DPA calls on UK government, industry and local communities to end digital poverty by 2023
Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA) has this week challenged government, industry, and local communities to work together to eradicate digital poverty in the UK by 2030.
The challenge was issued at the launch of the DPA’s 2023 national strategy, held in the Palace of Westminster on 22 May, where it set out six core missions leaning on its 2022 evidence-based review.
The review highlighted five key determinants of digital poverty: devices and connectivity, access, capability, motivation and support and participation.
The DPA’s six core missions are to:
– Increase awareness across society about the need for sustainable and strategic action to end digital poverty.
– Ensure affordable connectivity and guarantee full digital access for those in need on a sustainable basis.
– Improve standards of accessibility, safety, and inclusiveness across all digital products and services.
– Reduce the proportion of individuals without essential digital skills and ensure the sustainability and expansion of these skills in response to changing technologies and needs.
– Enhance knowledge and understanding of digital poverty among all stakeholders, including citizens, governments, and the public and private sectors, through the development and utilisation of research.
– Increase local capacity to provide joined-up digital inclusion support to individuals and communities.
Paul Finnis, CEO of the alliance, told delegates that many aspects of life – including how we learn, how we participate and how we transact – are shaped by digital technologies.
“At this critical juncture, we could advance as a digital nation where everyone is enabled and engaged or leave large proportions of our society ever further behind,” he explained at the event in the home of the UK’s parliament.
The organisation calls on government to create a new digital inclusion strategy, for public, private and third sectors to not only help raise awareness about digital poverty but also take “urgent” action to boost digital skills across society.
It also demands a new entitlement to ensure that everyone at risk of digital exclusion can access free devices, connectivity and support, especially against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis.
Paula Coughlan, chief people, communications and sustainability officer at Currys – one of the founding partners of the DPA – added that “digital inclusion is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s an essential, for everyone”.
Finnis added that the scale and pace of digital change means that addressing this challenge goes beyond what individual organisations, governmental departments and companies can achieve working in isolation, stating that “an interconnected digital world requires an interconnected strategy”.
Industry must play its part
To ensure digital inclusion succeeds the organisation proposed cutting the VAT rate charged on broadband and mobile bills to 5% and replacing it with a digital inclusion levy to help fund these proposals. The DPA’s COO Elizabeth Anderson also calls on industry to help tackle digital poverty.
While digital transformation accelerated across several industries during the pandemic, it is showing signs of dwindling for one in three enterprises due to the shortage of staff who have basic tech skills and there has long been a call for businesses to nurture their IT talent.
“We know that organisations are crying out for more people with in depth digital skills and there’s so many people that they are missing out on,” says Anderson.
She identified that pockets of people experiencing digital poverty come from rural and coastal communities and said this talent could be accessed if firms offered remote working experience and training.
“Think about the talent that could be being enriched by companies with staff who aren’t in cities but have a wide range of skills that can be accessed through remote working. You could be appealing to a whole new demographic of people.”
One of the actions in the DPA’s strategy is asking employees to sign a charter about how they can support their staff.
Anderson admits that a lot of organisations have very tech savvy staff who are in their offices all day using digital tools, however, “a lot of organisations also have people who are not as tech savvy in any way shape or form,” she queries, pointing to those in junior posts, administrative roles and those working in construction as more likely to have less digital skills.
By signing the charter, firms will be able to work with organisations partnered with the DPA who can provide digital skills training.
The DPA also works with an organisation that can take second had technical appliances from enterprises and make them available to those who need them. “We hear from so many companies, ‘we take the green option, we recycle’, there’s a greener option, let it be reuse.”
Anderson asks firms to get involved in these conversations. “Think about how your firm, your industry can benefit from technology and indeed how you’re cutting yourself off from customers and stakeholders.”
“There’s a lot more people out there that you could be plying your wears to if they just had the access that they need.”
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