Digital Technology: Wigan

Department for Science, Innovation and Technology written question – answered at on 22 March 2024.

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Photo of Lisa Nandy Lisa Nandy Shadow Minister (International Development)

To ask the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, what steps her Department is taking to tackle digital exclusion among older people in Wigan constituency.

Photo of Saqib Bhatti Saqib Bhatti Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology is responsible for coordinating HMG digital inclusion policy as part of its commitment to ensuring that no one is left behind in the digital age. Digital inclusion is a cross-cutting issue that spans social engagement, education, employment, access to services and many more elements of everyday life.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology leads on telecoms and digital infrastructure, including Project Gigabit, the Government’s £5 billion mission to deliver lightning-fast, reliable broadband to the hardest to reach parts of the UK. In the Wigan constituency, over 98% of premises can access a superfast connection (>=30Mbps), while 92% can access a gigabit-capable connection, up from 0.8% in December 2019. Both of these current figures are higher than the national averages of 97% and 81% for superfast and gigabit-capable coverage, respectively.

More broadly across Government, the Cabinet Office is working to remove barriers and ensure online services are as inclusive as possible by making public sector websites accessible to as many people as possible. The Cabinet Office leads on the Service Standard, a set of principles government service teams and departments must adhere to when creating and running new public services – such as the NHS – and some Local Authorities, including Greater Manchester Combined Authority, have committed to using these as well.

Training is available for elderly people wishing to acquire essential digital skills. Department for Education has introduced a digital entitlement for adults with no or low digital skills to undertake specified digital qualifications, up to level 1, free of charge. Essential Digital Skills Qualifications, introduced alongside the digital entitlement, are based on new national standards which set out the digital skills people need to get on in life and work.

We also recognise that ongoing support is essential to overcome barriers of access. Our network of 2,900 public libraries across England provide a trusted network of accessible locations with staff, volunteers, free Wi-Fi, public PCs, and assisted digital access to a wide range of digital services.

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