Reflecting on United Nations Day, we are discussing why digital inclusion is important to the Sustainable Development Goals and how our work contributes to them.
Digital exclusion can affect anyone. However, lack of access to the online world is more likely if linked with poverty, disability, and age. You can read the first part of how our work at Citizens Online supports a digitally inclusive society here.
Goal 8 – “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”
Developing digital skills, confidence and access to devices is an important part of the pathway to getting back to, or move to better, employment. A recent study revealed that 82% of jobs advertised now require digital skills.1 Some of the learners we have supported have moved from long term benefits to employment. Others have gained confidence in applying for jobs online and developed digital skills needed for the workplace.
One of our learners described how they had felt digitally excluded in work, as well as outside of work:
“There was an expectation that I would know how to do something and if I did not know I was stupid. I was made to feel it was my fault for not knowing. I am frightened of doing things in case it is a scam thing. It has been helpful to meet other people with the same issues and learning in a non-classroom setting. The teachers are understanding and understand about dyslexia and dyspraxia.”
Improving digital skills and designing digital services in an inclusive way, reduces inequalities and supports growth. Recent research on the impacts of digital poverty found that people who are unemployed are 2-3 times more likely to be in digital poverty. Consequently, ending digital poverty would create an estimated £1 billion in government efficiency savings.2
Goal 10 – “Reduce inequality within and among countries”
Digital exclusion intersects with other inequalities, including social, economic, disability, and age. Therefore, working to reduce digital exclusion is a part of the wider solution to reducing inequalities. The people most likely to be digitally excluded are:
- Older people
- People with disabilities
- People with low education attainment
- People living on low incomes
We work closely with organisations that support disadvantaged people. One example is a support worker working with a resident with complex needs in temporary accommodation. They identified that the resident would benefit from having a laptop. After receiving this, they told us about the impact on the learner:
“I just wanted to let you know that today I handed over the laptop to (the learner) and he was absolutely blown away by this kind and generous gesture. He is full of gratitude and was so excited to start it up, try to get familiar with it etc. It’s perfect timing as he starts a basic IT course next week. This will help him so much and I can’t thank you enough myself too.”
We supported a learner with anxiety and agoraphobia.3 We gave them a tablet and helped them to use it over the phone. As a result, they were able to access services, be more independent and improve their health and wellbeing. You can read more here.
Goal 12 – “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”
We advocate and practice device recycling and refurbishing. We use recycled devices for our staff and learners. Receiving a refurbished device can make a huge difference to someone’s life, as the quotes above show. Recycling and refurbishing devices is also an important part of sustainable consumption. It reduces e-waste and supports circular economy. We ensure that all devices are swiped, securely checked and updated before distributing to learners.
In the last year we provided people with 475 devices, including laptops, tablets, smartphones and SIM cards. A support worker who referred a someone needing a laptop told us afterwards:
“I received a lovely email from the family stating how much they appreciate the laptop. Thank you again, it has made such a difference.”
Another learner told us:
“I didn’t want anything to do with it (the computer) but now I am so pleased I have done it. I couldn’t even switch it on 6 months ago but now I can do those things that I want to do.”
Digital devices need to be used for longer both in the workplace and in people’s homes. We encourage everyone to donate old devices to be re-used.
- Rebecca King, “New connections: how we’re bridging the UK digital skills gap”, Microsoft, 2023. ↩︎
- Deloitte & Digital Poverty Alliance, Digital Poverty in the UK. A socio-economic assessment of the implications of digital poverty in the UK, 2023. ↩︎
- Agoraphobia is extreme fear of entering open or crowded places, or leaving the home. ↩︎