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Digital skills policy requires “systemic approach” says charity

UK digital skills charity Citizens Online has called upon the government to change the way it provides skills training and support for the 6.8m adults in the country not yet online.

In a whitepaper published earlier this month, the charity supports the idea of a “systemic” approach, arguing that current initiatives are unlikely to substantially reduce the digital divide.

Citizens Online claims that the UK as a whole has become one of the “most digitally enabled” nations in the world as more than 80 per cent of households have broadband access averaging three Internet enabled devices.

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However, it adds that a “persistent” minority remains who have never been online, along with a larger group who only access the Internet in a limited way.

The charity claims that its own research has revealed that 20 per cent of those who have received help to get online give up and go back to the offline world within 12 months.

Citizens Online’s report also places emphasis on the importance of providing frontline staff with digital skills in the public sector.

Numerous organisations “need to work together”

The whitepaper recommends that local community bodies such as the council, Job Centre Plus and Housing Associations collaborate with voluntary sector organisations to build an evidence based “digital ecosystem.”

“The current approach is too fragmented,” claimed Dr Gail Bradbrook, co-author of the report.

“It is only by combining resources and aligning approaches that local communities will be able to identify the digitally excluded, drawn on publicly available training funds and ensure that every individual gets the training they need to go online and stay online in the long term,” she added.

Bradbrook also claims that she hears talk of “procuring digital skills” but this is complex issue which requires many partners – it is not as simple as buying a physical product.