Despite the fact that 77% of all jobs and millions of everyday transactions need IT skills, a report published today found that millions of people in the UK lack basic online skills.
The report commissioned by Go ON UK, the charity chaired by the UK’s digital champion, Martha Lane Fox found that 16 million did not have basic computer and internet knowledge. Online skills were defined by the report consultants as using a search engine, sending and receiving emails, completing online applications and assessing information online. The charity’s main aim is to improve the digital skills across the whole population as a way of improving equality with society.
"We need to make the country fit for purpose through the next decade and ensure everyone and every organisation has basic digital literacy," said Ms Lane Fox. She is also keen to educate small and medium sized businesses to use the internet to maximise their business opportunities.
The report estimates that only one third of small and medium-sized companies in the UK have a digital presence and only 14% sell their products and services online, missing out on the potential for billions of pounds of revenue.
"If the UK can supercharge itself, it could add a lot of value," said Ms Lane Fox.
One way the government has been helping to break the divide is the continuing of the ‘Race 2012’ scheme which was launched 18 months ago. The scheme targets low income families to support and encourage them to get online by promoting low cost PCs and subsidised internet connection. By supporting families to get on line, the scheme hopes to break down some of the ‘digital divide’ that exists between families who are online and those that are not. Access to the internet would enable parents to develop the necessary skills to achieve IT jobs or those requiring IT skills. The recruitment market for the IT sector remains buoyant despite the economic crisis and shows no signs of slowing down.
Jobs such as IT testing jobs for software companies as well as developer and programmer jobs are in high demand from entry level right up to experienced hires. Access to the internet will widely increase the chances of parents and families finding suitable employment due to the fact so many jobs are now advertised online.
Secondly, families will be able to benefit from online banking services, competitive online tariffs for utilities and other discounts. The PCs themselves will be relatively basic refurbished units but will only cost £98 along with an affordable internet connection priced at £9 per month.