Attaining digital skills has become a necessity, especially as we steer into the digital age. By acquiring the necessary digital skills, this allows professionals to stay up to date with the latest technologies and equip themselves with the hard skills employers are looking for. How can the UK tackle the digital divide?
As well as adjusting to the new and innovative tools at our disposal, the way we work has also taken a turn, with millions in favour of hybrid or flexible working. However, whether working on-site or remotely, how can you work effectively without the tools you need. That’s the problem.
The pandemic not only highlighted the issue, but worsened it. The UK had to get to grips with remote meetings via Zoom, knowing how to store and access files virtually and collaborate effectively.
The UK’s digital divide is considered to be at it’s worst. 53% of people in the North East and 41% in the North West rarely or never using the internet compared to 35% in the South East.
According to The University of Manchester, there are 9 million adults in the UK who can’t use the internet without help. Those currently in jobs also do not have the essential digital skills they need.
According to a report by FutureDotNow, half of the UK workforce lacks essential digital skills for work. The same report also revealed:
Only 23% of employees report having any digital skills training from employers.
The UK ranks 41st in the world for employee training
How can companies address the digital divide?
As the UK looks to get back to some “normality” after emerging out of the pandemic lockdown, employers and employees alike will be trying to address the digital divide. Whilst it remains a challenge, the industry is determined to get things back on track.
Regardless of the sector, there is a part to play for every sector to tackle the digital divide.
Providing High-Speed Internet For Employees
One of the disadvantages many employees face whilst working remotely, is poor internet speed. Whilst some employees may be unfortunate to experience a slow internet connection, some don’t have internet at all!
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, employers took extra measures to ensure their employees had all the tools they needed to work effectively from home, although most employees would have the essentials already. This resulted in the costs of training and refurbishment being used to support employees. People operations manager at software company Nulab, Analisse Dunne, said: "It's more important than ever to ensure that workers have the equipment and resources they need to get their job done.”
As well as ensuring remote workers have the necessary and quality of tools to work effectively going forward, there have been calls from experts to do the following:
Supply free-to-use digital devices and internet access to those in need
Increase funding for support programmes to get people online
Follow the approach to digital skills development of countries such as Singapore and Finland
Ensure vital services are still delivered by telephone as well as online
Increase collaboration between businesses, government and education providers
Support and enable schools to deliver ‘blended learning’
It has become a huge priority to ensure that all UK residents not only have access to good quality resources, but that the government and businesses realise not only the importance of tackling the digital divide, but also the challenges ahead.
As the UK and the world get to grips with the advancement of technology and what looks to be a “digital future”, the UK must make sure it is not left behind.