Digital Inclusion: Stronger Communities
Today, the Wales Co-operative Centre reveals the impact of digital exclusion on people in Wales, and sets out a compelling case for a continuing, national digital inclusion programme. We publish a new policy paper, “Digital Inclusion: Stronger Communities”, which explains why giving people digital skills and getting them online is a more urgent task now than ever.
Digital exclusion makes people poor. It keeps them out of work. It isolates people: this can lead to poor health and reduced life expectancy. Children from households that aren’t online underachieve at school. Digital exclusion marginalises people and disenfranchises them.
Latest figures show there are still half a million people in Wales who are digitally excluded. One in five Welsh adults has never used the Internet. Half of those in social housing aren’t online at home. Older people and those in deprived areas are more likely to be digitally excluded.
“Digital Inclusion: Stronger Communities” argues that the introduction of Universal Credit could have a catastrophic impact on people who are digitally excluded. The new benefit system is designed to be accessed online. The risk is that people who are digitally excluded could fail to access their benefits, or they won’t be able to manage their money. Claimants will need financial inclusion support: but the best resources are online. Digital exclusion could make the poorest people, poorer still.
Yet Communities 2.0, the Welsh Government’s flagship digital inclusion programme, ends in March 2015. The real danger is that without a specific national digital inclusion project, expertise will be lost, support will become fragmented, progress will stall and quality of support will decline. At the time when Wales most needs a national digital inclusion programme, the only one we have is drawing to a close.
The Wales Co-operative Centre has consulted widely on “Digital Inclusion: Stronger Communities”. We developed the paper with the support of many national organisations, including the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), Community Housing Cymru (CHC), and Age Cymru, as well as individual local councils, housing associations and County Voluntary Councils (CVCs). The case for a continuing national digital inclusion programme has received overwhelming support.