Digital skills fund launches to boost tech sector diversity

Government creates funds to help underrepresented groups gain technology roles and improve the everyday digital skills of the elderly and disabled.

Joe Lepper | 28th Aug 18
Image of Minister for Digital Margot James. A new digital skills fund has been launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Minister for digital Margot James

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is calling on charities to be involved in a £1m funding scheme to help improve the digital skills of under-represented groups in the technology sector, including women and disabled people.

The Digital Skills Innovation Fund has been created by the DCMS to support those on low incomes and from minority backgrounds, as well as the disabled and women, to gain the technology skills they need for digital roles.

According to the government just 17% of the tech workforce are women and unemployed adults are 5% more likely to lack basic digital skills compared to the national average.

Minister for Digital Margot James said it is vital that charities are involved in initiatives the Fund will back.

“It is crucial everyone is able to take advantage of digital technology, whether it is to learn how to use the internet or develop the skills to work in a tech role,” said James.

“If we want to maintain our position as a world-leading digital economy we need to work with industry, local authorities and the voluntary sector to develop solutions so no-one is left behind.”

Local Enterprise Partnerships, which involve councils and businesses and include charity representatives in many areas, are being invited to bid. Combined Authorities, which involve partnerships of councils, are also invited to bid.

The fund opens for applications on the 27th August and bids need to be received by 28th October. Grants of between £200,000 and £500,000 will be available.

 

More funding for everyday skills

In addition, the government is to launch a £400,000 Digital Inclusion Fund in September to fund schemes that help older and disabled people acquire digital skills for their everyday life. This includes making the most of search engines, using apps to stay in contact with friends and families and booking GP appointments online.

This is being managed by digital inclusion charity Citizens Online and will fund pilot projects that will get underway in January 2020.

“We know it’s becoming increasingly important that everybody in our society has the skills and confidence to be online; yet disabled people are four times more likely to lack essential digital skills then the general population and 28% of those over 60 are offline,” said Citizens Online Chief Executive John Fisher.

“We’re delighted that this fund will test new ways of offering support to these marginalised groups, often with complex needs, to enable people to live better lives with the benefits that being online can offer.”