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Peers call for new strategy to tackle digital exclusion

We welcome and support the Lords’ call for a new strategy. CAEE Research and Campaigns Team (3 mins)

The country needs “a credible strategy to tackle digital exclusion”. That’s the conclusion of a report* from the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee released this week.

Seeing a gap between plans for ‘global digital leadership’ and a lack of skills in the population, they quote:

  • 1.7m households have no mobile or broadband at home.
  • Up to 1m people have cut back or cancelled internet packages in the past year.
  • 2.4m people can’t complete a single basic task to get online.
  • 5m employed adults cannot complete essential work tasks. This matters when basic digital skills are set to become the UK’s largest skills gap by 2030.
Exclusion everywhere

Epsom & Ewell is among the least deprived local authority areas. Yet we find poor skills or lack of smart equipment exclude many clients from economic and personal development.

In the past 3 months CAEE advisers recorded help given to clients with specific online tasks on 90 occasions. These clients’ problems were many and various, from applying for a council tax reduction to seeking permission for a drop kerb. The advantages they were missing however were few but essential, notably the capacity efficiently to:

  • manage information using a search engine
  • communicate using messages to share information
  • carry out transactions such as buying online and installing apps
  • solving problems, verifying information and staying safe.
A welcome call

This report highlights citizens everywhere at risk of being left behind as the digital revolution unfolds. We welcome and support their call for a new strategy with 5 proposals.

  1. Protect digitally excluded people from falling further behind in the cost-of-living crisis. Example: increase supply of internet vouchers.
  2. More emphasis on basic skills in schools, colleges and apprenticeships.
  3. Boost community digital inclusion hubs, for example in libraries.
  4. Support smaller local telecoms providers to enhance competition.
  5. Ensure everyone can benefit as public services increase efficiency by adopting AI and machine learning.

Noting their Lordships’ interest in community hubs, we are pleased to support the great work of Surrey Libraries (see upcoming events) Nescot College and Epsom& Ewell Hub.

* Digital Exclusion HoL Communications and Digital Committee, June 2023

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