Digital Skills: Elderly in Rural Areas

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of Chris Davies Chris Davies Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire

What steps his Department is taking to help elderly people in rural areas learn digital skills.

Photo of Margot James Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Some 75% of those in this country with no digital skills are aged 65 or above. My Department has launched the digital inclusion innovation fund, which is designed to tackle digital exclusion, particularly among older people and people with disabilities. The Government are tackling digital exclusion by giving people the skills they need through the future digital inclusion programme. To date, the programme has supported 1 million adults to develop their basic digital skills.

Photo of Chris Davies Chris Davies Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire

In order for elderly people in rural areas to learn digital skills, they must first be able to access the internet. Will my hon. Friend confirm what progress is being made in getting all rural areas connected to the internet?

Photo of Margot James Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

I can certainly reassure my hon. Friend on that. We have spent almost £2 billion on bringing superfast broadband to 96%-plus of UK premises and are continuing to deliver in rural and remote parts of the UK. We have just launched the £200 million rural gigabit connectivity programme to ensure that no areas are left behind when it comes to the roll-out of gigabit speeds, which will be of particular value to older people in Wales and other rural parts of the country.

Photo of Rosie Cooper Rosie Cooper Labour, West Lancashire

In December, Ofcom recommended that 40% of video-on-demand content should be provided with subtitles within two years and 80% within four years. Will the Minister say whether she is prepared to introduce secondary legislation to ensure that that is done within a decent timeframe?

Photo of Margot James Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Lady is quite right: on-demand programme services need to catch up. The Ofcom proposals were made at the end of last year and are receiving consideration by my Department. In the meantime, best practice guidance has been introduced. It is voluntary at the moment, but for example Netflix has made 100% of its content available with subtitles.