I know I have been lucky when it comes to digital skills. Although computers hadn’t really entered the classroom when I left school, I studied Engineering at university and use of computers and programming became “normal”. Just like my fellow classmates, to me the computer became to tool to do everything with, from writing essays to programming machines, to keeping up with friends by email, to playing text based role playing games. Because we were all learning together it was easy to join in, it was fun, we could ask questions and try things out without being scared.
I also had a really good experience on my industrial placement in a factory where computers were used for product design, stock control and production scheduling as well as word processing and email. So I could see how these skills could be used to increase efficiency and productivity.
When I left University I took a year out working in a Charity. I was amazed that there was just one computer, sitting in the corner of the office and very underutilised. It just wasn’t part of the organisational culture or expectation of the employees to use digital (computers). My suggestion that the Charity needed a website was met with complete bewilderment.
In the last twenty years that has obviously changed with more and more computers in the workplace and the expansion in smartphones, tablets, connected TVs as well as computers and laptops for personal use. However I’m really aware that some people have still not had the opportunity to try digital technology in a way that they feel confident and safe doing. That includes many people within organisations who might be happy with emailing and word processing but are only scratching the surface of how digital could transform their work, the work of their colleagues and ultimately the service they provide to the public.
For almost every job now there is an expectation that people will apply on line. Most Government and Local Government services are easier and more convenient to access on line. Buying holidays, insurance, food, and even cars can now be done online where very often it’s cheaper than more traditional methods such as telephone or in person. But much more importantly than that, digital technology gives people the ability to access information, to stay in touch with family, to make new friends and reconnect with old ones. We must do all we can to encourage people to learn digital skills, through schools, through libraries, through adult education, through code clubs and more.
Digital.Together isn’t just about digital inclusion though it’s about the public and private sectors working together to learn from each other, to share expertise, to share approaches and to grow the digital economy in Kent. To remain competitive as a county and a country we need to capitalise on the skills and expertise we already have and ensure that we are inspiring the next generation of designers, programmers and business leaders.
That’s why I’ve signed up to be a Digital.Together envoy – I want to ensure that no one is left behind, to take away the fear of digital and to grow the digital economy. Find out how you can get involved after our launch on the 22nd of May.