Why the Essential Digital Skills gap matters

In the past 20 years there has been a tectonic shift in how we engage with technology. It’s changed how we communicate and how we consume; how we work and how we create.

We are living in a digital society – but today, in the UK, too many people are still not able to fully participate.

The data is stark.

11.8 million people of working age are still without the Essential Digital Skills (EDS) for life and work.

Astonishingly, this represents 36% of the UK workforce. These numbers make it clear – despite technology reaching into so much of how we live and work, not everyone is picking up the digital basics; not everyone is keeping up with technology.

It’s easy to assume that using a smartphone means someone is digitally confident. It’s easy to think all younger people are digital natives and only older people can’t ‘do’ digital. But despite the Covid-19 pandemic compelling so many of us to do more online, millions of people are trapped in the ‘hidden middle’ – between digital exclusion and advanced digital skills.

Right now, this skills gap is preventing individuals and businesses from taking full advantage of digital technology; it’s damaging the UK’s competitiveness and productivity. Digital skills are now entry requirements for two-thirds of UK occupations, accounting for 82% of online job vacancies. However, many businesses are struggling to recruit people with the digital skills they need.

Something can be done. We can create a thriving, economically prosperous digital society. But it requires positive action to equip people with the essential digital basics to problem-solve; communicate and collaborate; transact confidently; and handle data securely.