Almost six million people in Britain have never used the internet and more than twelve million lack basic digital knowledge, a government report has said. The report presented in the House of Commons by the Science and Technology Committee warns that Britain is in the midst of a serious "digital crisis" that may damage the country's productivity and economic competitiveness.
"Although the UK leads Europe on tech, we need to take concerted action to avoid falling behind. We need to make sure tomorrow's workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers need," said Committee chairwoman Nicola Blackwood.
Some of the key findings of the report are:
12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills and close to 5.8 million people have never used the internet
- In monetary loss terms, this digital skills gap is costing the UK economy an estimated £63bn ($89bn) a year in lost additional GDP
- To meet the rising job demands almost 90% of new jobs will require digital skills with 72% of employers unwilling to interview candidates without basic computing skills. To meet this estimate UK will need 7,45,000 additional workers with digital skills failing which these jobs may be outsourced or given to foreign workers.
- In terms of digital skills education, currently 22% of IT equipment in schools across the UK was found to be ineffective and just 35% of computer science teachers in these institutions had a relevant qualification.
In the report, the MPs also questioned as to why the existing policies of the government have taken so long to deliver the so called 'Digital Strategy' accomplishment. They say the strategy needs to be more aggressive and go further than just listing cross-government digital activity and offer a pragmatic vision for the future through a collaborative effort from industry, educators and government.
To repair the situation the Committee suggested some crucial measures. Here are some of the highlights:
- Digital skills will be one of the core components in all apprenticeships regardless of whether the work has direct involvement with computers and technology or not.
- All universities will have job-oriented vocational-focused digital career advice where students will be provided with 'code conversion courses' to help graduates from non-computer science backgrounds as well enter the tech sector.
- A review of the qualifying requirements for 'shortage occupation' IT jobs under 'Tier 2 visas', to allow SMEs to get critical digital skills from abroad.
- Close to 4.5 million of the 12.6 million who do not have basic digital skills are currently employed by companies that possess the facility to develop the relevant skills for these employees. Thus industries should step up and encourage training of current employees and not just new ones.