£600K tackles digital disadvantage

At least 300,000 young people under 24 in the UK are being left behind on digital skills – which is why Nominet Trust has this month launched a £600,000 Digital Reach programme to develop digital skills pilots supporting vulnerable young people.

digital reachA new programme to support the UK’s efforts to increase digital skills among some of the UK’s most disadvantaged young people has been launched by Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading tech-for-good funder.

The £600,000 Digital Reach initiative looks to harness the expertise of the UK’s leading youth organisations, which have “long-standing and trusted relationships” with the most country’s marginalised young people.

April’s Basic Digital Skills UK 2017 report from Ipsos Mori/Lloyds suggests that, despite an overall increase in the number of UK adults who have gained basic digital skills, at least 3% of those aged 15-24 are still being left behind. That equates to 300,000 people.

Nominet Trust says its own research indicates that it is this group that is the most likely to be facing multiple forms of disadvantage. It has created Digital Reach to respond to the national challenge by “reimagining digital skills delivery” to the hardest-to-reach young people in our society.

With Nominet Trust’s funding and support, Digital Reach will be implemented through a consortium of delivery partners, each known for their work with disadvantaged young people. The programme will initially aim to engage with 4,000 of those on the wrong side of the digital divide. The effectiveness of models to scale will also be evaluated, allowing more young people to be reached.

Nominet Trust is investing over £600,000 into the following six initiatives chosen following a selection and pitching process. Twelve organisations will be involved in developing and implementing pilots over the next nine months:

  • Action for Children will digitise their paper-based content across three employability programmes in severely deprived urban areas in Scotland.
  • Carers Trust will work with Good Things Foundation to develop an e-learning resource for young adult carers as an extension to Learn My Way –  the most widely used tool for digital skills delivered through libraries and community organisations). Eight Carers Trust Network Partners will use the resource to help young adult carers gain the basic digital skills they need to achieve their aspirations.
  • Home-Start and #techmums will collaborate to help 500 young mothers acquire basic digital skills to overcome the challenges they face in their daily lives, helping them become more confident and to achieve their personal and professional goals.
  • The Children’s Society and City & Guilds Group will engage 550 young people across the Midlands and the North of England by helping them to improve their digital skills through accredited course development.
  • UK Youth will use the investment to create digital hubs in 10 member organisations, training a youth worker and three young people to become digital champions. They will then work with referral and outreach partners to support the most isolated young people that are engaged with the digital hubs.
  • Wales Co-operative Centre will work with YMCA Swansea, Llamau and GISDA to engage 375 of the hardest-to-reach young people across Wales through a series of workshops and by incorporating digital literacy into existing life skills programmes.

Nominet Trust director Vicki Hearn said: “Digitally disadvantaged young people are amongst the hardest to reach and we need new models to engage with them to disrupt the cycle of disadvantage and exclusion. Our evidenced approach gives us confidence that Digital Reach will have a tangible impact on the lives of those who have so far been left behind.

Ms Hearn said that over the coming months, Nominet Trust would be supporting the six pilots and evaluating which are the most effective in helping disadvantaged young people acquire basic digital skills. “Through Digital Reach we hope to create models that can be replicated to address the issue at scale and inspire other organisations to take a fresh look at their approaches,” she said.

Digital minister Matt Hancock said: “We are committed to closing the digital skills gap, giving everyone the knowledge and confidence to prosper in the modern economy. The work being done by Nominet Trust’s Digital Reach project, along with the government’s Digital Skills Partnership, will play a pivotal role in encouraging and inspiring young people to find the training they need and identify digital job vacancies for them.

To ensure Digital Reach demonstrates its social impact and generates shareable insights, Nominet Trust says it will work with LSE professor and digital engagement expert Ellen Helsper to develop an evaluation framework and validate the findings.

Download the Nominet Trust Digital Reach prospectus.