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Westminster View: Solving Digital Exclusion

Chi Onwurah MP | July 15, 2015
As I set out in my last blog, one of the two key tests by which I believe we should judge the success or otherwise of this Conservative Government is digital inclusion. Digital Government without digital inclusion is a return to the traditional Tory model of democracy amongst a narrow elite. All citizens should have access to digital government services; that is what government means in a democracy.

So now we were getting somewhere.

So it appears this Government's target for digital inclusion is to have four million people still without basic digital skills by the end of this Parliament. This Government lectures us on the value of aspiration and yet its own digital skills aspiration is totally lacking in ambition. According to the Paymaster General's proposals it does not achieve its lamentable 10 percent target till 2030 and it is not until 2040 that the number lacking basic skills becomes insignificant.

But the truth may be simpler still - that the Government has no idea what it is doing on digital inclusion. The Paymaster General's colleague, the Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey announced in a 'digital leaders' blog 'Fostering skills for the digital economy' that one million people would be supported to gain basic digital skills over the course of this Parliament.

This leaves eight million digitally disadvantaged at the end of the Parliament, which may be intended to make Matt Hancock's proposals appear positively ambitious. What it certainly does is demonstrate that they cannot even join up DCMS and the Cabinet Office. What hope is there for a strategic, joined up, cross Governmental silos approach to digital skills?

The difference between Hancock and Vaizey is around four million of our fellow citizens, hardly a rounding error. Digital is more than simply the internet or computers or big data. It is an enabling technology which is going to form the underlying platform for so much of how we live our lives. The economy of the UK, our culture, our society will need everyone to achieve a level of basic digital literacy.

This point was well made by Martha Lane Fox in her Dimbleby Lecture and doteveryone campaign. If we are not all online we will all lose out on the benefits of the digital age.

The minister and his government need to focus of solving the digital inclusion challenge for our country. So far this is yet another #Toryfail.


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