Declan’s Policy Update: Tackling the Digital Divide

Our Digital Forum aims to drive the growing digital sector in Staffordshire, enabling businesses to freely exchange information, share best practice and discuss digital innovation, information communication technology and artificial intelligence (AI).

Like all of our Chamber policy forums, we invite member businesses to come together and receive informative updates from guest speakers, before discussing the key issues which then feed into our policy work. 

In this last year, the Digital forum has set up two working groups to focus on the topic of Digital Divide.  A Digital Skills Working Group (DSWG) is connecting businesses and training providers to create a local view of a digital skills pathway to provide learners (and where appropriate their families), with sign posting to technology specific learning opportunities and how the available courses can support a professional career development within the digital sector and beyond.  

By highlighting the digital technology ‘stacks’ that are being taught on open courses, businesses can feedback on what is currently available and highlight where gaps may exist.  This should enable local businesses to better engage with work placement opportunities.

Digital Divide Working Group (DDWG) has also been established and the area of Digital Divide has been summarised by a four-pillar model, developed by our forum Chair, Charlie Houston-Brown:

1.1 Hardware

1.2 Coms/Internet

1.3 Base Skills (so linking with DSWG)

1.4 Tech Support

I joined the latest DDWG meeting last week, kindly hosted by Staffordshire University.  We received an update from the ‘100% Digital Leeds’ initiative, which supports signposting as part of a citywide digital inclusion programme.    

The initiative has been developed as a means of tackling digital exclusion, which can lead to social inclusion.  We live in a world where technology is king and there is a need to ensure that residents have a good understanding of the personal relevance of digital to their lives and how using digital tools, technology and services can be of benefit.

Our residents also need to feel confident in their ability to engage with digital tools in a safe way.  They need to have the equipment to get connected and then the skills to build confidence and fully embrace technology to improve their lives.

100% Digital Leeds has established a community digital support directory, with effective signposting to local organisations who can offer support to local residents, taking a community-based approach to tackle digital exclusion.

We took a good deal away from the update and we’re now looking at how we can replicate something similar in Staffordshire.  It’s one of a number of strands we are developing, including a means of repurposing unwanted items of hardware (laptops, tablets etc.) and getting these securely wiped and offered to those members of our community who need the tools in order to engage with a digital world.

Both the DDWG and DSWG are open to all businesses across our area and if you would like to get involved, please contact: