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Digital Poverty Alliance warns of rising UK digital divide
Wed, 3rd Apr 2024

The Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA) warns that the incoming government's lack of commitment to bridging the digital divide could disadvantage millions of adults and children across the UK.

Research carried out by the DPA in conjunction with Deloitte revealed that digital poverty remains a significant concern in the UK. One in seven adults and one out of every five children still suffer from digital poverty, and an estimated 19 million people in the UK are affected by this issue.

The scale of digital exclusion extends beyond basic online connectivity, digital skills and access to electronic devices, according to the DPA. This is more than a technological disparity; it's a social issue that profoundly affects individuals' ability to participate fully in society. Addressing this gap involves empowering every person in the UK to access critical digital services, from education to employment, as well as healthcare and welfare services.

Elizabeth Anderson, CEO of the Digital Poverty Alliance, emphasised the gravity of the situation: "Whether red or blue, the incoming government must place solving digital poverty as a central part of their manifestos and national policies. If the government continues to neglect those without essential digital services, then millions will be left behind across the UK," she said.

Anderson further explained the necessity for swift action in the face of rapidly evolving technology: "The UK continues to claim to become a science and technology superpower as one of its core aims, but how can that happen when tens of millions can't access basic healthcare services, education or online banking?"

"The incoming government must devise a comprehensive plan to tackle the widening digital divide, featuring fast-acting policies and collaboration between government, industry and the education sector. Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, but we as a society can't keep leaving digitally excluded people offline."

The DPA has proposed solutions to help bridge the digital divide. Primarily, they recommend that the incoming government should establish a cross-department task force. This task force would be responsible for the development and implementation of a national strategy for digital inclusion across all governmental departments.

The charity further calls for the government to champion immediate, targeted actions to address the digital divide. This should ensure fair and equitable access to vital support and resources for all, which includes raising awareness and providing signposting to resources.

The Digital Poverty Alliance's urgent call to action underscores the critical need for concerted efforts by the incoming government to address digital poverty in the UK. With millions of adults and children facing disadvantages due to inadequate digital access and skills, there is a pressing need for comprehensive strategies and collaborative initiatives across government, industry, and the education sector.

By prioritising digital inclusion as a central component of national policies and manifestos and implementing swift and targeted actions, the government can work towards bridging the digital divide and ensuring equitable access to essential digital services for all members of society. Failure to do so risks further exacerbating social inequalities and hindering the nation's progress towards becoming a science and technology superpower.