Wales Co-operative Centre has published a report on why digital inclusion in Wales matters – and what still needs to be done.
Digital Inclusion in Wales collects the thoughts of 12 individuals across diverse sectors, discussing how digital can be used to combat poverty, transform healthcare, provide workplace opportunities and connect rural communities.
From 2009 to 2015 a Welsh government digital inclusion project, Communities 2.0, helped 60,000 people get online. Building on this work, Wales Co-operative Centre is delivering Digital Communities Wales, the Welsh government’s current digital inclusion programme. It aims to develop existing partnerships and co-ordinate digital inclusion activities to help digitally excluded people engage with technology.
“Wales Co-operative Centre has been working to address issues of digital exclusion in Wales for over 11 years,” said chief executive Derek Walker. “Our Welsh government-funded work has made a significant contribution to addressing the digital divide in Wales, but we know that there is plenty more to be done, as more and more services and interactions are moving into an online space.”
Dr Sangeet Bhullar, founder of Wisekids, said the impact of the lack of digital access – particularly in rural Wales – cannot be underestimated for individuals, families, communities and businesses.
“However, the lack of access is only the first barrier,” she said. “Another barrier, even among those with access, may be the deeper digital literacy needed to fully maximise opportunities from these connected technologies.”
“Our digital world is moving on at such a pace it’s easy to get left behind or never even start the journey,” writes Ceri Jackson, director at RNIB Cymru. “While there has been progress in Wales in addressing digital exclusion for older people, the challenge is significant, increasing and evolving.”
She added: “Digital solutions impact positively on many aspects of our lives but are not a replacement for human interaction.”
“More and more services, including vital public services, will continue to move online, so people cannot be left further behind,” said Julie James AM Minister for Skills and Science. “For those that haven’t already done so, let’s make a commitment as employers, employees and citizens to eradicate digital exclusion, so everyone can use digital technologies as an enabler to a better life.”
The pieces were originally published on everyonesbusiness.coop – the blog site for the co-operative and social enterprise sector in Wales.
In February, Digital Communities Wales launched the Digital Inclusion Charter. It includes six pledges and was set up as a simple way for organisations to show how they are helping digitally excluded people – particularly older people, people with disabilities, unemployed people, social housing tenants and families in poverty – enjoy the benefits of the internet.
This month, a list of 180 organisations across Wales which have committed to the Digital Inclusion Charter has been unveiled, with pan-Wales signatories including BT Wales, Welsh Gymnastics and several public libraries and housing associations.