COVID-19 has accelerated the impact of new digital technologies. The benefits of digital technologies have borne their fruit earlier than expected for those included in the revolution but left behind millions on the wrong side of a digital divide in UK society. The most vulnerable people in our society need support to become digitally included.
For the majority of society digital skills means being able to access information and services through the internet. Digital skills have become far more important during the lockdowns of the UK's responses to COVID-19. Many more people are meeting with friends, family and community groups online. Adults are learning new skills while furloughed and many children are now home-schooled by a combination of google-dependent parents and remote teachers. Businesses are surviving or thriving through online sales alone and many workers are now home workers using online collaboration tools.
There are sections of our society that remain digitally excluded through lack of access, no motivation, low confidence and insufficient skills: 7 million people in the UK have no internet access at home, 10 million rarely use the internet and a further 11 million Brits use the internet only for social media and entertainment. Digitally excluded people are economically disadvantaged by not being able to access products and services and their health and well-being is affected. This divide is becoming more important much faster than expected for the most vulnerable in society due to COVID-19.
If you have found this blog post then you are almost certainly on the right-side of the digital divide. Yet you are not safe. New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation will affect you sooner than you think as COVID-19 has accelerated their introduction too.
It is not that jobs will reduce. The machines won't replace humans, they will displace them. Many jobs of the middle class e.g. management, accountancy, IT/computer programming, will be hollowed out by computer automation and those people must either upskill, downgrade or diversify. Creativity may be the last bastion of human enterprise.
There are also wider concerns around digital technology's affects on society. The last four years and more has seen much political polarisation. We are all now living in echo chambers where our existing world views are reinforced more than challenged. This has lead to the spread of extreme views, conspiracy theories and misinformation.
Finally, as our global society becomes more reliant on digital technologies, cyber attacks have become a clear and present danger and bad people can act globally. Everyone needs the skills to remain safe while online. Every product connecting to networks must be used to maintain its security: laptops, phones, doorbells, heating controls and all of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices coming soon.
It is clear that the digital divide must be reduced for all our benefit and that's a big part of what The Geekery does for Thanet:
Sparks ideas and innovation
Develops access, skills and passion for digital technologies.
We would be really interested in your uses of, or exclusion from digital technologies has affected you in recent times. Please do comment below with your stories and any ideas the digital divide can be reduced.https://www.goodthingsfoundation.org/