Tim Bonner has written for the Huffington Post UK website about how the Government needs to develop a strategy for tackling the digital skills divide to complement its planned investment in digital infrastructure: The Reality Of The Digital Skills Divide

In the comment piece Tim Bonner said:

“More and more of the economic and social life of our country is moving online. Access to high speed broadband is now widely recognised as an essential service alongside water, electricity and gas. It has been a challenge to this, and previous, governments to roll out broadband in the countryside. We therefore welcome the Government commitment, expressed in last week’s Autumn statement to invest £1 billion in broadband and mobile technologies.

“However, though investing in digital infrastructure is of great importance, it is not in itself enough to ensure the future prosperity of rural communities. A key challenge that needs to be addressed is the lack of skills and confidence to use digital technology within rural communities. This is a key stumbling block that unless addressed will prevent rural communities from making the most of the opportunities that will come about as a result of the Government’s £1 billion investment in digital infrastructure.

“Digital skills are now necessary life skills and we must aspire for the whole population to achieve the level of digital literacy needed to fully participate in social and economic life. Worryingly, a recent Parliamentary Inquiry reported that “there is a digital divide where up to 12.6 million of the adult UK population lack basic digital skills. An estimated 5.8 million people have never used the internet at all. This digital skills gap is costing the UK economy an estimated £63 billion a year in lost additional GDP.”

“Despite the aim of creating a leading digital economy, a recent Government report concluded that “currently, 72% of large companies and 49% of SMEs are suffering tech skill gaps… There is an increasing range of activities and occupations where digital skills are needed but supply is not adequate.”