digital skills

Lack of digital skills could be costing the UK close to £13bn per year

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More than five million people in the UK are said to be unable to carry out simple online tasks such as sending an email, recent research suggests.

As a result of the digital skills gap, UK workers could be missing out on around £5.69bn in additional wages, according to a new study carried out by Virgin Media O2 and based on modelling from economic consultancy Cebr. 

The study found that many people believe that a lack of knowledge on using the internet has held them back at work and also prevented them from shopping online for better deals on goods and services as the cost of living rises.

The study concluded that this skills gap is costing the UK economy approximately £12.8bn every year.

According to the survey, 34 per cent of those asked said they felt a lack of digital skills training had held back their earning potential, while 31 per cent believed they had been passed over for a promotion or pay rise.

Amid ongoing concerns around the rising cost of living, 21 per cent of those surveyed said they need to improve their digital skills so they can help find a job with a higher salary, while 29 per cent said they needed to gain more online skills so they could shop around online for better deals.

Moreover, nearly half of those asked (44 per cent) said their lack of digital skills had affected their mental health and well-being because they struggled to book medical appointments online or apply for benefits.

In response, Virgin Media O2 has said it is working with digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation to provide free digital skills classes as part of Get Online Week.

The scheme aims to teach people to use the internet to carry out essential tasks such as word processing, sending emails and accessing a range of important online services, such as those linked to medical appointments and banking.

“With the cost-of-living crisis deepening and Brits facing rising bills, it’s more important than ever that people can gain vital digital skills, so they can apply for better-paid jobs and increase their incomes while boosting the UK’s economy by almost £13bn," said Nicola Green, from Virgin Media O2. 

“Together with Good Things Foundation, we’re hosting free digital skills masterclasses in community centres across the UK to improve the nation’s digital skills. It’s part of our ambition to upgrade the UK, where we’re committed to improving the digital skills and confidence of two million people by the end of 2025.”

This digital skills gap is not exclusive to the UK. In July this year, bosses from hundreds of the biggest tech companies in the US - including Google, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft - signed an open letter urging governors and education leaders to introduce computer science to be taught to children from as young as five years old. 

The UK's newly updated Digital Strategy, presented in June 2022, includes plans to create a new Digital Skills Council to help “plug the skills gap” in the tech sector, as well as looking to “capitalise on the freedoms we now have to set our own standards and regulations”, the government said. 

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