Digital Access for All launches to help solve problem of digital exclusion

25th February 2019


An estimated 1 million children and young people and their families still don’t have adequate access to a device or connectivity at home

February 25th, 2018 London: Today sees the launch of ‘Digital Access for All’ (DAFA), a taskforce initiated by the Learning Foundation and Nominet, with a commitment to design and deliver solutions to the perennially stubborn problem of digital exclusion. Lack of access entrenches those already at a disadvantage by further negatively impacting their financial and educational future. The vision of the taskforce is to ensure that all children and young people in the UK have equal access to digital and the benefits it provides.

Digital exclusion can lead to poorer health outcomes and a lower life expectancy, increased loneliness, social isolation, and less access to jobs and education.  It can mean paying more for essentials, financial exclusion and an increased risk of falling into poverty.  There is also a risk that digitally excluded people lack a voice and visibility, as government services and democracy increasingly move online.

Lord Knight who, with Baroness Harding, has helped to lead the DAFA Taskforce comments: “Digital Access For All recognises the excellent work being carried out across the UK in the area of digital skills and the inclusion agenda, however we believe that the issue of access is critical at a time when there are still upwards of 1 million children and young people and their families who don’t have adequate access to a device or connectivity at home.”

DAFA will kick-start activity based on findings from new research by Lloyds Bank which focuses on children’s use and access to technology and connectivity at home. Lloyds Bank findings include:

It’s not just access to the internet that matters. It’s the quality of the connection young people have as well as their confidence, skills and access to appropriate devices. For example:

  • 11% of young people accessing the internet at home could not do so with a computer on a broadband connection.  A further 6% connect to the internet via dial-up modems, technology that is now two decades old.
  • However, for 12% of young people, (approximately 700,000 individuals), it is not possible to use these devices at home, creating challenges for completing school work.

Young people have themselves identified the benefits that digital can bring:

  • Three quarters (76%) of those aged 11-15 say they would find it difficult to complete their schoolwork at home without the internet
  • Two thirds (66%) of young people rely heavily on digital access to ensure they aren’t missing out on being with friends and feeling left out.
  • Three quarters (76%) of 16-18 year olds use the Internet to help them achieve their career ambitions

Findings from this research show they can still face a number of perceived hurdles to doing more online; including parents’/ care givers’ permission to go online, household device sharing, negative online experiences and concerns around online security.

The Carnegie UK Trust have also published a special new report, Switched On, produced specifically for the initiative. Switched On brings together research and evidence about key issues related to digital inclusion, with a particular focus on children and young people.

Switched On findings include:

  • Digital access challenges are compounded when you concentrate on young people experiencing vulnerabilities or focus on particular geographies, specifically rural locations and urban areas of high deprivation.
  • The digital policy landscape is varied with a range of national and local policies covering different aspects of digital and young people.
  • There is a need to shift the debate to talk about the full range of issues impacting on digital inclusion for children and young people, encompassing access to technology, an affordable reliable connection, and also the ability to utilise the online world effectively and safely. Adequate access goes far beyond simply owning a digital device.

Over the next six months DAFA will be working with leading service design partners to shape a series of pilots that will test different approaches to delivering the initiative effectively across the UK.

Paul Finnis, CEO, Learning Foundation, comments: “Digital Access For All is a determined effort to unlock solutions to the challenge of digital exclusion so that every young person, and their family, can have adequate access in the home so they can build the skills, confidence and enjoy opportunities for their future in a digital society.”

Eleanor Bradley, COO, Nominet says: “As a leading digital nation, the UK needs to ensure that all of its citizens are able to engage, participate and benefit from everything that being online can offer. With Digital Access For All our goal is to test and shape a number of pilot initiatives to provide tangible solutions that ensure that all young people have the opportunity to reach their potential in a society that is now digital by default.”

The DAFA initiative was developed by the Learning Foundation, a consultancy with a social purpose, and Nominet, profit with a purpose the company operating at the heart of the UK internet infrastructure responsible for the .UK domain space, as lead founding partners, with support from Lord Knight and Baroness Harding. Founding partners include Intel, Lloyds Bank, Microsoft, Argos, BT, Carnegie UK Trust, Computer Recyclers, Good Things Foundation and Greater London Authority.

Baroness Harding says: “The use of technology and its impact on society continues to increase exponentially. It is now an essential part of life and learning for families and especially for children.  It is crucial to our nation’s future success that all children and young people should have equal access to digital, and all the benefits it provides.”

Lord Knight concludes: “We are delighted by the enthusiastic response to the DAFA initiative and hope that many more organisations will join this visionary enterprise. We believe that if children are to engage and flourish academically, adequate home access is absolutely critical. We understand that if we are to achieve the full benefits of digital inclusion our taskforce must also consider parental advice, teacher training and the wider issues of health and safety in the digital environment. The potential of not only each individual, but our digital economy and future hiring pool depends on it.”

For more information please contact:

Editors Notes:

*Estimate based on a collation of evidence from third party sources – please contact Learning Foundation

“The Lloyds Bank Digital Index report states that there are 4.3 million people (8%) in the UK with no basic digital skills at all (Lloyds Bank, 2018). A recent Cebr report found that 11.3 million people are not digitally connected and lack the basic digital skills they need to participate fully in our digital economy (Cebr, 2018). In terms of young people, the Lloyds Bank UK Digital Index shows that 700,000 11‐18 year olds (12%) have no home internet access from a computer or tablet. A further 60,000 11‐18 year olds do not have any home internet access at all (Lloyds Bank, 2018).”

Links to research

  • Switched On
  • Lloyds Bank research report “Digital access, skills and confidence among 11-18 year olds in the UK” will be available online from 27/02 – please contact Learning Foundation for a copy

Profile and quotes from Taskforce Founding Partners

Argos:  “As a business that’s undergone a digital transformation itself, we understand the growing impact of technology on the everyday lives of our customers.  Digital access can unlock significant educational, financial and social opportunities, so we look forward to working with the taskforce to develop practical solutions which offer genuine benefits to digitally excluded families in the UK.”  Jon Wiltshire, Electricals Trading Director, Argos

Intel: “Intel believes passionately that now more than ever families everywhere should have the opportunity to safely and confidently get online in their homes. Digital exclusion stifles learning experiences, denies access to services enjoyed by the majority of society and restricts the skills pipeline for the UK’s critical jobs of the future, that’s why the work of DAFA is crucial.”; Adrian Criddle, VP & Country Manager, Intel UK.

Microsoft: “Tackling digital exclusion is one of the biggest challenges facing society today and an issue we must address to thrive in the future. Microsoft is committed through its own Digital Skills Programme to tackle the digital skills gap, ensuring everyone from children to educators have access to the technology they need to succeed in their lives. That’s why we’re delighted to be a founding partner of the Digital Access for All taskforce. Not only will this help to identify the current challenges the UK faces, but importantly by working with a coalition of organisations, we will find practical solutions that close this digital divide once and for all.” Ian Fordham, Chief Learning & Skills Officer, Microsoft UK

Lloyds Bank: “We are delighted to be working with the Taskforce to promote adequate access to digital and digital skills for all. Digital is the great democratiser of our generation and we have a chance to create huge impact to those 700,000 11-18 year olds without adequate access to digital. We hope this research will help kick-start the conversation about how we can get every young person in the UK using the internet and digital skills effectively, helping them with school work, life and career decisions, and socialising with friends and family. We have made great strides in regards to digital access in schools, but as our research shows there is still a lack of adequate digital access and skills for many young people in the UK.” Leigh Smyth, Responsible Transformation Lead, Lloyds Banking Group

BT: BT welcomes the establishment of the Digital Access for All taskforce. It complements our existing Barefoot and Work Ready programmes which have already supported over 2 million young people across the UK. And now in partnership with like-minded organisations, we can support more young people and their families with access to technology and equip them with the skills they need to navigate today’s digital world. Liz Williams, Digital Society Director, BT

Carnegie UK Trust:  “We are delighted to be one of the partners working with the Learning Foundation and Nominet on the new Digital Access for All initiative. This is a timely intervention to remind policy makers, industry and the public that adequate access to the digital world is far from guaranteed for all young people in the UK. We hope our new report “Switched On” will be a valuable contribution to the debate, demonstrating both the complexity and nuance of the digital access debate, but also the need for practical action.” Douglas White, Head of Advocacy, Carnegie UK Trust

Good Things Foundation: “Good Things Foundation is a social change charity, with the aim of a world where everyone can benefit from digital. Through our hyperlocal network, we’ve supported 2.5 million people to improve their digital skills since 2010, and we’re working with communities in the UK and abroad to help people be healthier, happier and better off through digital.  Today in the UK, 11.3 million adults lack the basic digital skills they need, and for many of them, access is a big barrier to digital inclusion. We’re committed to getting 100% of the nation digitally included, so we can realise the economic benefits, and most importantly so that we can ensure we don’t leave anyone behind. This is why we’re so pleased to be involved with the Digital Access for All initiative. ” Helen Milner, Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation.

Computer Recyclers: “Computer Recyclers UK, a family run business, are proud and excited to be supporting Digital Access for All (DAFA). Working to highest industry standards of I.T Asset Disposal & Data Destruction, we are already committed to re-using as much I.T collected as possible to help achieve affordable access. We are aware that digital access can benefit all people in different ways, whether it’s education, social life, work, health or finances and so we are really looking forward to working closely with the DAFA partners to help make a real difference”   Tyrone Griffiths, Managing Director, Computer Recyclers

Learning Foundation Case Study

Donna Thompson from Keighley

Some of the benefits of providing digital access to her son Jack and the family are described by his mother Donna Thompson: “He absolutely loves it, even now two years later. We hadn’t had a computer at home before, so it was a big change for the whole family. Jack is coming out of himself more and more, and his grades have gone up; even when he is feeling quiet, he can ask questions online, so he doesn’t always have to put his hand up in class. He’s doing his homework better and faster. It has made a big difference to me personally and my other children too: we really feel like it has brought us all on and we are all part of the future now.”

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About Nominet

Nominet is driven by a commitment to use technology to improve connectivity, security and inclusivity online. For 20 years, Nominet has run the .UK internet infrastructure, developing an expertise in the Domain Name System (DNS) that now underpins sophisticated threat monitoring, detection, prevention, and analytics that is used by governments and enterprises to mitigate cyber threats. A profit with a purpose company, Nominet supports initiatives that contribute to a vibrant digital future and has donated over £45 million to tech for good causes since 2008, benefitting more than 10 million people. www.nominet.uk.