The government’s new policy to enshrine the right for all adults to have basic digital skills must be designed to reach the most excluded people, according to tech-for-good charity Tinder Foundation.
Yet there are still 12.6 million people in the UK who don’t have basic digital skills, who are not only missing out on individual advantages, but costing the country an estimated £63 billion a year in lost GDP.
In an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, sought to address this skills deficit by announcing that all adults in the UK who need basic digital skills training will receive it.
Above and beyond
However, Tinder Foundation is keen to see this commitment go beyond ‘business as usual’ for FE colleges, and really step-up and out of institutions to address the complex challenges facing those with least access to technology, least skill, and least motivation to learn.
Chief executive Helen Milner explains: “Many people without basic digital skills face other inequalities and barriers – from poor literacy or English skills to disability, poverty or poor health. Many have been put off formal education in the past, or just don’t see how digital technology is relevant to them. But I’m a strong believer that everybody should have the opportunity to succeed – no matter what their background – and we can only achieve this by prioritising those who are most excluded.
“For these reasons, I hope both DCMS and DfE will seize the opportunity to put those who are most socially excluded at the very heart of this new policy. This means working with a wide range of community-based organisations – not just colleges – in order to reach, inspire and support the most excluded and vulnerable adults who have the most to gain.”
Putting learning into the heart of communities is certainly very much at the heart of Tinder Foundation’s own delivery through the 5,000 strong UK online centres network. The organisations within the network, which include community centres, libraries, adult education providers and voluntary groups, are experts at breaking down barriers, finding the hooks to motivate diverse audiences and personalising learning so it leads to long term, positive outcomes.
Unsurprisingly, Tinder Foundation, which also operates the award winning Learn My Way learning platform, also sees online learning as key in the success of a universal digital skills offer. Helen Milner explains: “Online learning can drive up quality, while ensuring user focus, excellence, and the right content for the right outcomes. It can also drive down costs as it can be scaled easily and quickly. It can empower people to self-serve skills, while also providing a universal curriculum for hyperlocal community-based providers who can blend it with great, personalised, informal and local support.
“Karen Bradley’s announcement is a significant one and I really hope that government will think outside of the box of formal learning and traditional classroom delivery to drive forward a policy that could have a real and lasting impact. I’m looking forward to hearing more, working with government to get the details right, and seeing this policy enshrined in the digital economy bill very soon.”
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