The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) has praised the Government for the steps it is taking in supporting millions of adults to be able to confidently and safely use the internet, but would like to see an increase in funding for specific projects to make progress more quickly.
The Government’s new strategy which aims to get 2.7 million more people online in the next two years gives important recognition to the need to address low levels of literacy as one of the most entrenched barriers to internet access.
David Hughes, NIACE chief executive, said: “Around 21 per cent of Britain’s population currently lack the basic digital skills and capabilities required to use the internet. This means that they are unable to access public services, at a time when an increasing number of government services move online, as well as benefit from the myriad of other information, services, connections which the internet provides.
“A high proportion of these people are some of the most vulnerable, isolated and disadvantaged in society - including those in social housing, on low wages, unemployed, with disabilities, older people, offenders and the 2.6 million adults with low levels of literacy.”
Hughes said that he wanted to see more of a focus placed on accessibility for users challenge by literacy in the development of online government services.
“Recent community learning funds which NIACE has managed on behalf of the Skills Funding Agency have illustrated how relatively small amounts of funding can make a significant impact. I would like to see more funding to allow replication of proven approaches as well as to explore new ones.
“Many organisations are already taking community approaches to digital inclusion, but we need more programmes – particularly in rural areas and for marginalised groups - which embed digital skills in learning, prioritising literacy, numeracy and work-related skills. There is also evidence of the impact which volunteer and mentoring programmes have on digital exclusion such as through Community Learning Champions, however, we need to ensure these approaches become more widespread,” he added.