The Millennial future is more than just memes and avocados. We live in a digital age where many important parts of our lives – in both work and play – are enabled through the click of a button. Online banking, shopping, video conferences, and even keeping in contact with friends and family are now often accomplished without any necessity for human interaction.
This shift in social norms is inescapable with so many essential services operating from behind a screen. As Doteveryone says, “Connectivity and information are utilities, like electricity or water, that touch and influence every aspect of modern life in ways we can and cannot see.” Digital skills are now as important as Maths and English; to not join in means not only being left out, but left behind.
In April 2018, Lloyds Bank produced its annual report, Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2018, to look into the level of digital capability across the UK. Despite the growing importance of being online savvy, the report found that nearly 12 million (21%) adults in the UK are without basic digital skills.
Research from the Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index 2017 report found that a staggering 1.6 million SMEs and over 100,000 charities in the UK do not have basic digital skills.
Camilla Drejer, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Accenture, UK & Ireland said:
“If the UK is to maintain its position as a leading economy, we must ensure we are providing young people entering the workforce, as well as those looking to reskill, with the opportunity to develop the digital acumen required for the jobs of the future. Digital skills development is the cornerstone of our efforts to build an inclusive digital economy […] Having a shared understanding of the skills required to thrive in a digital world is an essential step on the journey.”
So, what is considered a basic digital skill these days? Does it mean knowing how to switch on a computer or is it how to embed a video on a website? And how do you know if you make the grade or not? Thankfully, there is a framework available that helps answer these questions.
In 2015, Go ON UK (now part of Doteveryone) launched a Basic Digital Skills Framework to set a benchmark of the level of skills needed by all individuals and organisations in order to participate in the digital world of today and the future.
In March 2018, the Tech Partnership – a network of employers collaborating to create the skills for the UK digital economy – and Lloyds Bank launched a consultation to build upon this framework, addressing the substantial changes to technology in society that has occurred since it was launched. Three years in these fast-paced times of continual technological advancement is a very long time indeed.
On 10 May 2018, the new Essential Digital Skills Framework was launched with the aim of helping everyone in the UK enhance their essential digital skills. The Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) plan to use the updated framework as the basis for developing new national standards for essential digital skills.
The Framework encompasses five categories of basic digital skills – for both life and for work. The categories are:
The new framework has introduced a differentiation between skills statements for life and work. The framework also includes a section on ‘foundation’ skills, which are typically required by those not currently using digital technology or using it in limited ways.
The Framework has proved useful in highlighting key areas for improvement, not just for individuals, but for organisations.
The Lloyds Business Index 2017 reported that charities with four of the five skills required were most lacking in managing information – with 42% of respondents still needing to improve in this area. 36% of charities still needed skills in problem solving.
In the same report, businesses were most lacking in problem solving (65%) with managing information in second place (23%).
The report concluded that if organisations were able to improve skills in those two problem areas, 75% of small businesses and over two-thirds of charities (68%) could be classed as having basic digital skills.
Still debating whether you and your organisation really need digital skills? If you think it’s not for you then you are in good company, with 1 in 3 charities as an example reporting that being online is not relevant to them. Interestingly, it is the same ratio that lack the relevant digital skills. So, it may be a personal fear of change, or a lack of training or awareness of support available preventing the organisation from reaping the benefits of joining the digital revolution.
The Charity Digital Skills Report 2018 stated that unless boards and leadership teams develop their digital skills, 65% of respondents were worried their charities would miss out on opportunities for digital fundraising, and 53% were worried that they would concede ground to competitors, lose touch with their audience and their charity would become irrelevant.
The Lloyds Bank Consumer Digital Index 2018 highlights that having basic digital skills can save individuals time and money, and provide them with easier access to work and education. Currently those without digital skills in employment earn £13,000 less than those with all five basic digital skills. Those currently unemployed are also almost three times as likely to have limited digital use.
In terms of benefits to organisations, the report states that digital skills are a “shortcut to success”:
Other benefits noted in the report include greater customer engagement, geographic coverage and marketing effectiveness.
What is clear is that the benefits of digital skills reach far beyond merely keeping up with the Kardashians.
The good news is that even those who admit to being a Troglodyte can learn the basics of the online world and reap the many benefits it has to offer.
Through the Government’s focus on digital inclusion, support is available to help organisations and individuals who want to develop their digital capability.
The Tech Partnership works to give everyone access to the basic level of digital skills they need for life and work, including the first step on the ladder to learning more advanced and specialist tech skills.
From a signposting perspective, SME & Charity Digital Skills Taskforce has developed a Digital Know How Toolkit which includes suggested messages and Tweets for organisations to use to best engage their SME and charity audiences with how digital skills can support them. The Toolkit also includes a list of digital skills resources that can be shared via various communications channels eg newsletters, websites, blogs, useful links pages etc to help organisations find training and resources that could help them build their online presence.
The DCMS 2017 UK Digital Strategy announced that government would establish a Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) which brings together public, private and charity sector organisations to facilitate coordination between digital skills programmes, including the sharing of knowledge and best practice. The DSP aims to improve coherence of digital skills provision at a national level, but also promote and support the establishment of Local Digital Skills Partnerships.
Digital inclusion charities such as Citizens Online and the social enterprise Good Things Foundation provide front-line support to individuals seeking to gain digital skills. The Foundation supports a network of over 5,000 UK Online Centres, based in libraries, community centres and social housing. The Good Things Foundation Future Digital Inclusion Programme – funded by the DfE, is the largest digital inclusion programme in the UK. It uses the community reach of the Online Centres Network to support some of the hardest to reach groups in society, engaging them in digital and helping them to progress.
NCVO are a founding member of the Catalyst – a coalition of major foundations, civil society organisations, digital design agencies and the government, seeking to accelerate the use of digital in the UK’s voluntary sector. One of the focus areas for the Catalyst will be to increase the quality and range of support available to help organisations build their digital knowledge and skills. The Catalyst is going to develop new support for voluntary organisations to help:
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