According to the 2018 Lloyds Bank Consumer Digital Index
, just over eleven million people in the UK have limited basic digital skills such as being able to use a search engine, shop or manage their money online.
In 2015, six diverse UK organisations launched the One Digital programme
, through support from the Big Lottery Fund, with the aim of putting their heads together to improve digital inclusion. They achieved this by using Digital Champions - trained individuals who can support people to get online and gain confidence in using digital technologies.
In its first 'test-and-learn' year the programme surpassed expectations, recruiting and training over 1,100 Digital Champions
and supporting over 11,000 people to be more confident online. Five of the organisations continued the partnership (Age UK
, Citizens Online
, Clarion Futures
, Digital Unite
) and secured Big Lottery
funding for another three years from 2017. Their current goal is to recruit and train a further 3,000 Digital Champions and support 37,000 people by 2020.
We spoke with members of the One Digital partnership Stephanie Noyce, Head of Money and Digital at Clarion Futures, and Sally Dyson, Head of Digital Participation at SCVO, about the achievements of the One Digital partnership and its ambitions for the future.
CDN: How did the One Digital partnership come about?
The One Digital Programme came about following an invitation from the Big Lottery Fund for organisations to collaborate to support people to get online. All of the organisations that came forward were already using ‘digital champions’ as part of their work in some form.
We wanted to collaborate around that digital champion activity, and take that forward to help people to improve their digital skills and get online. To achieve that we work very closely together to develop a programme to meet all the partners’ needs.
SCVO manages Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter
, which is focused on helping people to get online. We have a huge plan in this area anyway so it was just really natural that we would get involved in the One Digital programme. We wanted to find out what works from other organisations and share our best practice so that we’re all pulling in the right direction.
CDN: Why is the digital inclusion issue so important?
For lots of reasons we believe it is fundamentally important. Not being online excludes people from so many vital activities, take employment and access to benefits as a starting point. Most jobs are advertised online, so if you lack basic digital skills, you immediately face a fundamental barrier to getting into work.
The big one for us is Universal Credit. If you’re not confident online you aren’t going to claim your universal credit, and you have no income. And it’s not just claiming it, you have to manage your universal credit claim online and if you don’t know how or don’t have the kit it’s a massive barrier.
The financial cost of not being online is huge. Recent research on the ‘poverty premium’ shows that not being online means you can’t get access to cheaper products and services – things that add up to a significant amount of savings every year.
What alarms me is that we know 6% of our young tenants are digitally excluded. This has a very different impact on a young person than someone who is maybe in their 80's and not online, as they are not accessing services, or accessing the finances and jobs they need, and it’s just another form of social exclusion.
CDN: What is the benefit of the collaborative, inter-organisational approach?
Collaboration has a massive role to play. Because all the partners are very different, we all bring different insights. And then you start to think ‘how does that insight work for me as an organisation and my client group - what can I take from that?’ There are lots of things coming out where we might not see the relevance now but it sits in the back of our head and we ask ‘I wonder if that would work here?’
We have a supportive, respectful open network. We can look at each other's models and constantly challenge and ask questions. ‘Is it something we should do?’ ‘Why does it work?’ ‘What doesn’t work?’ ‘What do you think my problem would be if I tried to do that here?'
CDN: What’s been the most exciting part of the programme so far?
The launch of the Community of Practice
in February this year was really exciting. We had a day with a massive collection of people, including people from the Department of Work and Pensions, into a single room, and pulling together their stories. Crucially, we also had many people who have benefited from the programme able to share what’s worked for them. That’s when you can see the tangible difference - that lightbulb moment.
It's easy to lose sight of things when we all have our heads down focused on outcomes. So the Community of Practice gives you that focus, that push to do a little bit more, as well as really validating what we’re doing and giving us credibility.
What’s so good about the partnership is that we’re not afraid to change and innovate. There is a huge amount of expertise across the strategic and project delivery element, but we are all still striving to learn more and go that little bit further.
CDN: Is One Digital open for other partners to get involved?
We’re five organisations at the moment - when we initially launched AbilityNet
was also a partner. We always said it’s a really flexible partnership, not fixed.
Any organisation that works in the area of digital inclusion with the digital champion model is welcome to work within the partnership, whether for a short period of time or a longer period. Our aim is to be an evolving partnership, working in as many ways as we can to make sure that the UK is a digitally inclusive society.
How to get involved: if you would like to learn more about the One Digital partnership and how your organisation can get involved, get in touch with One Digital Programme Director Sarah Cant: firstname.lastname@example.org