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Back in 2013, Martha Lane Fox, the UK’s digital inclusion champion, believed that over 16 million people in the UK lacked the basic digital skills to fully benefit from the internet.
The good news is that in the two years since, the UK has started to bridge the gap of the digital divide – but more than 12 million still fall short. The message is clear, the UK economy will begin to suffer as a whole if businesses, educational institutions and government agencies don’t all work harder to close this digital skills gap.
A recent survey conducted by the British Interactive Media Association, as part of the UK’s Digital Day initiative, lead with the headline that the digital skills gap is costing the UK billions of pounds in business turnover. Whatever your view of technology and IT and whether it’s an enabler or a distraction – these statistics and warning signs certainly cannot be ignored.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. An increasing number of students are taking STEM subjects at A-level and enrolment for computer sciences at Universities are up 12 per cent. Both positive signs for the future of the UK workforce.
The majority of public sector organisations are keen to adapt to the new ways of the digital world, however inertia and fear of is costing the public sector dearly. Public sector organisations should be leading by example when it comes to the adoption of cloud and as-a-service provisions, particularly as they are funded by the tax payer and there’s an opportunity for significant cost savings to be realised.
A major difference between the public sector and some of the more forward thinking private sector counterparts, is their acceptance to change. The skills gap could be one explanation as to why public sector organisations aren’t innovating as fast as they should or retaining the best young talent. Many public sector organisations find themselves in a vicious cycle - they are behind on digital, therefore they struggle to attract new young talent, therefore they stay behind.
If public sector organisations - which play a vital role in underpinning the country’s prosperity - don’t have a competitive digital workforce then the threat to economic growth, productivity, and social mobility will continue to grow.
The Public Sector needs to throw off the shackles of inertia and fear in order to attract new talent, train the next generation and have a positive impact on overall health of the UK economy.
By Mahmood Chaudhri, Managing Director, Datrix.