Digital Technology

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy)

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the Answer of 3 February 2020 to Question 9674 on Digital Technology, what progress his Department has made on tackling the root causes of digital exclusion since the publication of the Digital Strategy in March 2017.

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister of State

Since the publication of the Digital Strategy, the Government has been tackling the root causes of digital exclusion.

Lack of connectivity is a root cause of digital exclusion. £1.7bn has been spent to bring superfast broadband to over 96% of UK premises and we are continuing to deliver in rural and remote areas of the UK using funds generated from this success. The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review set out Government’s ambition for full fibre in the UK, including an ‘Outside-In’ approach to ensure that those who do not have good connectivity today will soon benefit from it. Government is also working with industry on the Shared Rural Network (SRN) proposals to significantly extend the reach of mobile networks in rural and remote areas.

Further, lack of skills and confidence are also a root cause of digital exclusion. 99% of libraries in England offer free wifi to users; there people can also gain access and support in using computers and other technology to get online and achieve the benefits that digital services can offer. Libraries can also support people with Assisted Digital and they provide access to a wide range of digital public services where individuals are unable to access these services independently. Some library services (such as Leeds and Lewisham) also offer device loans to enable those who are not confident to trial technology such as iPads in their own homes.

Another cause of digital exclusion is inaccessible services for those with access needs, and access to public services, technology and websites is crucial to reducing digital exclusion. Government will always offer support to those who need it to use digital by default public services, be it over the phone, face to face, or via webchat. We call this ‘assisted digital support’, and it is a requirement of the service standard, which all government services must meet if they are to go onto GOV.UK.

Further, as mentioned in our previous answer of 3 February 2020 to Question 9674, from August of this year the Government will introduce a legal entitlement for adults with no or low digital skills to undertake new digital qualifications free of charge.

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