The case for a systemic approach to digital skills

Published: Jul 7th, 2014 | Author: Laura Simpson

View the White Paper: Citizens Online – Digital Skills Systemic Approach – White Paper


Leading Digital Skills charity Citizens Online has called for a radical change to the way the 6.8m offline adults in the UK are given skills training and support.


In a white paper jointly published today with channel shift experts, Trapeze Transformation, they say that current initiatives are unlikely to substantially reduce the Digital Divide and that a new “Systemic” approach is needed.


While the UK as a whole has become one of the most digitally enabled nations in the world, with more than 80 per cent of households having broadband and averaging three internet enabled devices, there remains a persistent minority who have never been online and a larger group who only use the Internet in a limited way.


The research suggests that statutory bodies in local communities, including the local council, Job Centre Plus and Housing Associations, will only succeed in tacking digital exclusion if they collaborate with voluntary sector organisations to build an evidenced based “digital ecosystem”.


According to Dr Gail Bradbrook, co-author of the report: “The current approach is too fragmented. It is only by combining resources and aligning approaches that local communities will be able to identify the digitally excluded, draw on publically available training funds and ensure that every individual gets the training they need to go online and stay online in the long term”.


Dr Bradbrook continues: “I hear it suggested that we can somehow “procure” digital skills like we are buying socks for the army, but this is a complex issue with many partners having a role in ensuring access, skills and motivation.   No one budget is going to pay for this and yet digital skills are crucial for our Digital Nation goals.”

As technology moves forward at an alarming pace  some of those who have been helped to get online struggle to understand new devices and systems; Citizens Online’s own research show that 20% give up and go back to the offline world within 12 months.
The report also highlights the critical importance of providing frontline staff with digital skills. Dr Gerald Power, an expert on digital channel shift, said: “The question that always comes from the public sector is ‘We have built the online service, but how do we get the customers to use it?’.  This piece of work represents the first serious attempt to answer that question.  We are creating a roadmap that enables everybody with an interest in this area to understand the issues in a more sophisticated way and then be able to develop a long term sustainable solution.”

Citizens Online manage the Get IT Together Programme, a UK programme of community digital inclusion projects, funded by BT, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Communities 2.0 and local partners. Each project runs for three years and covers a particular geographical area with a locally agreed focus to help disadvantaged groups. This, along with extensive consultancy work, has provided a wealth of experience and independently verified research to evidence the paper.


Notes to editors

About Citizens Online
Citizens Online is a national charity that believes participation in the digital world is a fundamental part of modern life.  It is our aim to ensure that the benefits of digital technologies can be enjoyed and shared by everybody, so that our society may become more inclusive and just.  Further information is available at

The GET IT Together programme has been run in conjunction with the BT Better Future programme

Dr Gail Bradbrook

Dr Gail BradbrookGail has worked for Citizens Online since 2003. She oversees the Get IT Together Programme, the Fix the Web project (web accessibility) and Tweetlocal, as well as supporting the charity’s consultancy work, fundraising and strategic direction.

Gail helped establish the EC’s e-inclusion awards and has been a judge for awards from Microsoft and Nominet. She was previously Director of comm.unity, Business in the Community’s campaign focusing on digital inclusion and corporate responsibility for the ICT sector, which included the establishment of IT4Communities. Gail’s postdoctoral research in molecular biophysics took place in France, the Netherlands and India.


Dr Gerald Power

Dr Gerald PowerGerald started his career with the Ministry of Defence on its science and technology fast track management training programme.   Later he went on to specialise in change and benefits realisation with a particular emphasis on the role of technology, skills and behaviour change in effective delivery of outcomes.

During his career he has worked across all of the major Central Government departments including DWP, DH, HMRC, DfT, Directgov and CLG.  This has also involved working with Local Government, the third sector and industry in situations ranging from simple procurement to international collaborative alliances.  His most prominent role within Government before leaving to become a freelance consultant was with the Cabinet Office where he provided advice to Ministers and Departments on the economic case for digital services and on delivering cashable savings.


Citizens Online:   tel:  07866838584

Trapeze Transformation:  tel:  07941320776


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