On 4 March 2020, the Minister for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage MP, responded to a written question on digital exclusion.
The Minister outlined that since the publication of the Digital Strategy, £1.7 billion has been spent to bring superfast broadband to over 96% of UK premises, and that the Government will continue to push for broadband in rural and remote areas using funds generated from this.
She also referenced The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, which set out Government’s ambition for full fibre in the UK, including an ‘Outside-In’ approach to ensure that everyone benefits from good connectivity. Government is also working with industry on the Shared Rural Network (SRN) proposals to extend the reach of mobile networks in remote areas.
In her answer, Caroline Dinenage MP also referenced two major causes of digital exclusion:
- Lack of skills and confidence – Currently 99% of libraries in England offer free Wi-Fi to users, and libraries can also 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 homes.
- Inaccessible services for those with access needs, and access to public services, technology and websites – ‘Assisted Digital Support’ is in place which allows the Government to offer support to those who need it over the phone, face-to-face or via webchat. This is a requirement of the service standard, which all government services must meet if they are to go onto Gov.uk.
Finally, Caroline Dinenage MP noted that 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.