Time to grasp the digital challenge…

It’s hard for many of us to imagine a day without the internet, a smartphone, or a computer of some sort. Technology changes everything, we’re often told. Despite this, in Wales 18 per cent of adults have never used the internet.[1]

Older people, people with disabilities, people not in employment and people with no qualifications at level 2 or above (i.e. GCSE, NVQ, Higher Diploma) are disproportionately affected-  forming the majority of those with poor digital skills. This needs to change.

With access to social security, banking and job adverts increasingly moving online, the digital age is at risk of further marginalising some of the most deprived people in Wales, if we don’t tackle the issues of digital skills and access.

Infrastructure and access are perhaps the area where we have seen most progress in recent years. The way in which we access the internet is now more diverse; tablets and smartphones; at work, at home and at school or college; but for those who have issues around confidence and skills, this can make it all the more bewildering.

Basic online skills are a right, not a privilege. The digital skills gap cannot be solely addressed by young people, and we must strive for a fully digitally literate population to raise people out of poverty and improve the digital skills available to Welsh employers.

Throughout this week, NIACE Cymru is running Adult Learners’ Week – a nationwide celebration of lifelong learning – and a chance for adults to take part in hundreds of taster classes, tutorials and lessons across Wales. Friday is Digital Day, and addressing the digital skills gap will be in the limelight.

There are events taking place all over Wales, including ‘DIGITAL FRIDAYS’ in Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent, ‘Syrjeri Digidol’ on Anglesey and Computer and iPad workshops in Neath Port Talbot, Conwy and Merthyr Tydfil. I couldn’t possibly list all the exciting events, but you can find them all here: http://alwcymru.org.uk/events.asp

Alongside this, NIACE Cymru has also asked young people all over Wales to tell us how they would change the way they are taught digital skills. They have come up with some fantastic ideas, and you can come along and see the best at our digital conference this Friday at the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff.

In 2005 there was no such thing as an iPhone, and Facebook had only 6million users. It now has over 1.2billion worldwide. We can only begin to imagine what further technological changes there will be in the next 10 years, what access to services, to education and to work. We must ensure that our citizens are equipped with the essential digital skills to participate, or we risk marginalising our citizens, and our economy being left behind.


[1] National Survey for Wales 2013-14