A new report from Vodafone and WPI Strategy has revealed 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 a good chance in life, according to the report. To ensure that young people acquire these skills, the report calls on government, businesses, charitable partners and civil society to tackle the impact of the digital divide.
The new report is called No one is left behind, the digital divide in the UK in 2021 and shows how the digital divide affects not only the elderly and those with poor internet connections, but also those who are financially and socially disadvantaged. It is common for people to say that a smartphone and an internet connection are luxury items, but this is increasingly wrong as more and more aspects of life require you to have these products and services.
One area the report focused on in particular was the role of technology in the context of the coronavirus. Many people have been urged to work from home, do banking and access public services online and even shop online. Those without online access couldn’t do these things and had to either continue to interact face-to-face, expose themselves to the virus, or rely on others to help them.
The digital divide only exacerbates problems with digital literacy, according to the report. It found that 23% of the lowest income households were unsure of using a search engine to access government services and apply for a passport; this figure rose to 5% in the richest households. Using this information, the report suggests that the most vulnerable in society may not be able to access essential support that increasingly travels online.
Lack of digital literacy skills also appears to hamper job chances. The report found that 63% of job seekers say they would benefit from digital skills training, compared to just 36% of the general population. Vodafone believes this shows that employability could be directly linked to digital skills.
Finally, the report said the digital divide meant families had to choose whether parents were doing their work on the computer or giving it up to keep their child in school. Among those polled, 29% said they had been forced to make this choice in the past year, which means that the work of the parents or the education of the child was affected while those of the wealthier households could perform both tasks simultaneously, allowing them to move forward in life.
Commenting on Vodafone UK reportedly playing a role in resolving the issue, CEO Ahmed Essam said:
“At Vodafone, we have placed the fight against digital inclusion at the heart of our business with our commitment to connect a million people by the end of 2022.”
The new report is now available for download for those who want to read it.