Digital Connectivity and Skills

CV19 has required an immediate shift to digital channels in order that everyone can carry on with all aspects of their life – work, meetings, education, entertainment, shopping, medical appointments, social contact and so forth. The means to do this are in themselves straightforward – i.e. the use of laptops and similar technologies; the existence of broadband, wifi, and 4G infrastructure; and good general competences in the population for using such systems and infrastructure. What is not straightforward however is the disparity in access to some of these elements. For those who have the means and knowledge, the shift from IRL (‘in real life’) activity to digital has been smooth and easy – indeed I have permanently changed the way I will do things – the opportunity. These changes are, generally, better for me: a more efficient use of my time with no commute, the ease of collaborating with colleagues, flexibility, choices and so forth. These changes are, generally, better for society as a whole: reduced carbon emissions, reduced spread of colds and ‘flu, improved productivity rates, and so on. However, these benefits are not available for all. The challenge is that without some people having access to the ‘holy trinity’ of hardware, connectivity, and how-to knowledge, some people will be left behind. Already there are children without means to join online lessons, working age adults with limited access to job opportunities due to poor broadband, and some members of society simply without the skills. Most significantly, the impact will include an increased disparity in educational attainment, particularly amongst less affluent households, and a prevalence of unemployment for low income groups. This challenge is also an opportunity – enhancing access to hardware and connectivity, alongside a programme of upskilling, can be the foundation for the UK’s future prosperity.




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