Seven million face being left ‘behind the on-lines’ by digital divide

New campaign urges government and business to power up social inclusion initiatives, with the potential to save billions of pounds.

Almost seven million adults in the UK – around 12% of the adult population – face being left “behind the on-lines” in 10 years because of digital exclusion.

Now, the Good Things Foundation (GTF) – a charity supporting the socially excluded to improve their lives through digital means – has gone live with the campaign #BridgingtheDigitalDivide.

This calls on government and business to power up connection initiatives – warning of financial consequences expected to run into the billions by 2028 unless action is taken.

Conducted for GTF by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), the analysis outlines the UK as missing out benefits estimated at around £21.8m by not backing basic digital skills to progress in parallel with technological changes – as more and more services shift to digital platforms to save money.

Drawing on detailed economic modelling, the resulting report finds that the saving to the NHS alone will more than pay for the cost to provide the digital skills training and support needed to upskill the entire UK population.

The report draws several conclusions including 6.9m people still digitally excluded by 2028 at the current rate of investment in digital inclusion support, while UK could benefit by £21.9bn within a decade by upskilling the entire population in digital skills.

Helen Milner OBE, GTF chief executive, said the report showed a clear economic case for investing.

“Those who profit most from digitisation have a responsibility to help improve digital inclusion, so we’re calling on government and businesses to commit to getting everyone online in the next 10 years,” she said.

“But there is also a clear case for acting now. It is unacceptable that so many people are being left behind, and the report we’ve commissioned underlines the urgency of stepping up our efforts. We know that more can be done by working in partnership across sectors,” she said.

The benefits from increased digital inclusion include:

  • £1.1bn in time savings from financial and government transactions moving online
  • £570m added to the economy in earnings benefit from increasing individuals’ income, and government gains from higher NICs and tax receipts
  • £313m in employment benefits from previously unemployed people entering the workforce due to being upskilled through digital training
  • £1.1bn from cost savings in online transactions during shopping
  • £400m communication benefits from greater online community access reducing social isolation. The report assumes that connected individuals will then invest more of their disposable income to recreational and cultural activities
  • £141m NHS savings from increased use of digital services
  • £487m in government savings from digital efficiency and increased use of online services
  • £1.5bn in corporate benefits from increased productivity through greater digital skills in the workforce
  • Providing everyone in the UK with the essential digital skills they need by 2028 will lead to a benefit of £15 for every £1 invested

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