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Digital Inclusion

March 6, 2018 9:13 AM
Originally published by Liberal Democrat Group on Norfolk County Council

Digital inclusion is about having the access, skills and motivation to confidently go online to access the opportunities of the internet.

The benefits of developing digital skills cannot be underestimated. From communicating easily with the world around, to accessing learning and job opportunities, managing, making and saving money and even improving physical and mental health, digital literacy is a vital skill to participate fully in the modern world.

Digital inclusion is a cornerstone of the Government's Digital Strategy, stating "that for the UK to be a world leading digital economy that works for everyone, it is crucial that everyone has the digital skills they need to fully participate in society… enabling people in every part of society - irrespective of age, gender, ability, ethnicity, health conditions or socio-economic status - to access the benefits of the internet."

The Good Things Foundation 2017 estimated that citizens can save £744 per year from shopping and paying bills online and that people living in the 3.6 million low income households in the UK which are digitally excluded are missing out on savings of over £1billion a year from shopping and paying bills online. 52% of people who use the internet frequently report that they feel more confident about managing their finances.

They also benefit from being able to use the internet to stay connected to family and friends which helps to reduce isolation in the community, particularly for older people who are most likely to experience such isolation.

It also states that academic research shows that people in work who acquire digital skills achieve a rise in earnings of between 3% and 10%.

The study concluded that nationally the benefits to training those without Basic Digital Skills far outweigh the costs involved, and such an investment would generate a substantial return to society and to government. In fact, the study shows that the boost in tax receipts and NHS savings alone exceed the size of the investment required.

A Price Waterhouse Cooper report published in 2009, the Economic Case for Digital Inclusion suggested that if the 1.6 million children who live in families which do not use the internet got online at home, it could boost their lifetime total earnings by over £10 billion through improved educational attainment. The report goes on to say that if all digitally excluded children had a computer at home, GCSE performance could increase by 4.5%.

What does it look like in Norfolk?

A report to the County Council's Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee on 6 March 2018 states that - the latest Digital Exclusion heat map, developed by the Local Government Association, the LSE and Lloyds Banking Group3 shows that the overall likelihood of digital exclusion in Norfolk is HIGH. http://heatmap.thetechpartnership.com/?area=North%20Norfolk&metric=total

The table below shows the factors likely to impact on digital exclusion, as well as the overall likelihood of exclusion, for each of the Norfolk Districts.

Digital Inclusion

What services does the Council provide?

The most disadvantaged by digital exclusion and where an inclusion strategy can potentially have biggest impact are:

  • Job seekers, including those claiming universal credit
  • Low income families, including children
  • Older people (socially isolated people)
  • People with disabilities

The current Offer from Norfolk Libraries and Norfolk Community Learning Services (NCLS) includes:

  • Free internet access since 2000 and 560 free to use computers available at all library sites
  • Free access to public WIFI in all libraries
  • Good Things Foundation and Learn My Way - delivering online learning. Libraries are UK online centres
  • Google Digital Garage supporting improved digital awareness for business start-ups available in libraries
  • Volunteer computer buddies offering one to one support in libraries
  • NCLS and NLIS courses - Get Digital and I connect
  • Code Clubs, Jobs Clubs and Assisted Digital offer in libraries
  • Themed Workshops, for example, Online Safety in libraries
  • IT Apprenticeships from NCLS
  • Basic and intermediate IT Skills offered by NCLS
  • Digital skills for finding work or a better job, including online job search and CV writing offered by NCLS
  • Fully online and blended learning across a range of vocational programmes offered by NCLS

(Please contact your local library to access these services.)

How to bridge the gap?

The County Council is currently exploring how to improve digital inclusion across Norfolk. The Council's strategy states that "We propose to work with the most disadvantaged groups where the returns will be greatest, not just for the individuals concerned, but also in terms of return on investment for Norfolk County Council."

The Council will also seek to:

  • improve communication and co-ordination of activities related to digital inclusion
  • focus on initiatives that will reduce barriers to digital exclusion by harnessing the motivations of digitally excluded individuals, and
  • work with partner organisations, both public and private sector, to agree local priorities and maximise impact

Liberal Democrat View

Our liberal vision for Norfolk is about freedom and opportunity. The Liberal Democrats in Norfolk believe that everyone should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential regardless of their age or where in the county they live.

Furthermore, we believe in bringing county hall to the communities rather than the other way around. This will mean providing the necessary training in those areas which need it the most which can be remote isolated areas with little public transport.

We value the idea that those people who use a service are best placed to help design it.

Photo of Marie StrongMarie Strong says "We feel very strongly about Digital Inclusion and whilst the County Council is working towards removing barriers to services via the internet we must ensure that whatever we design meets the needs of all. It is imperative that all residents, including those dependent on assisted technology, have the opportunity to acquire adequate digital skills.

At the same time we must ensure that not only are good broadband speeds delivered across the county but that there is a plan put in place for delivering the next generation of broadband speeds five years from now and beyond."