September 21, 2015

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Written by Gina Wilson, Senior Project Officer, Carnegie UK Trust

When it comes to digital, being connected isn’t the same as being included.  Once over the hurdle of online access, the challenge becomes ‘capabilities’*. To borrow the language of iRights, the digital world should be accessed creatively, knowledgeably and fearlessly.


But we know that for a sizeable minority, that isn’t their experience.


We need to try new approaches to improve digital inclusion, find out what works and support those who are leading the way. Our new initiative #NotWithoutMe aims to do just that. The Trust is looking to identify and support innovative projects which test solutions to digital inclusion challenges facing vulnerable young people.


It seems a question with an obvious answer, but earlier this year we asked 1,006 adults** whether they thought it was important that all young people have basic digital skills. 97% thought it was.


And yet we know that not all young people do have these skills. Prince’s Trust research found that 10% of unemployed young people (aged 15-25) could not send a CV online and avoid using computers. In fact, we have an issue at both ends of the scale – from the most basic skills right through to the skills needed by the UK’s digital industries.


As a Trust, we’ve been researching barriers to digital inclusion and promoting steps to measure and improve participation.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to helping those who lack basic digital skills. Finding personal hooks is a first step, but the barriers are likely to be multiple, varied and complex.


We’ve explored useful sources of help to get people online. Family and friends are the most frequentlystated source of help identified by ‘potential users’. But what about young people who may not have family or friends who can help?


There is a link between the digital skills of the people we ask for help and the skills we ourselves develop. Increasingly, it is expected that young people will know more than older adults.62% of parents already feel that their children (aged 12-15) know more about the internet than they do.


A wide range of professionals support young people who are ‘outside the digital mainstream’ and lacking in basic digital skills. We know that many young people in this category are at a significant ‘period of transition’ in their lives – such as being homeless, in care, seeking asylum or unemployed. Guidance to support the way professionals work are evolving and some sectors are actively piloting new approaches (e.g Digitally Agile National Principles).


Those with the solutions to improve digital inclusion will ultimately be those most affected by the issues. We’ve chosen to focus our new project #NotWithoutMe on offering support to organisations already working with vulnerable young people. Crucially, we want to support those who involve young people in designing their services.


Digital skills are essential. However, it must be acknowledged that many people with these skills struggle to translate them into tangible offline benefits. Digital inclusion should not be seen as an end in itself, but as a route to making equality of opportunity a reality. (tweet this)



*(the ability of a person to do valuable acts)

**this data comes from an Ipsos Mori poll, conducted on behalf of the Carnegie UK Trust in March 2015. A representative sample of 1,006 adults aged 18+ were asked “How important, if at all, so you think it is that all young people have basic digital skills, such as managing information, communicating, problem solving, accessing services and creating content?”


Additional information:

An international source of inspiration for digital inclusion and wellbeing:

Information on staying safe online: