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Teaching ‘basic digital skills’ more important than improving broadband infrastructure

Tuesday, December 9th 2014 by Hannah Langston

Skills, motivation and affordability are bigger barriers to getting online than broadband infrastructure, the head of a digital inclusion charity has said.

Only 1% of people say lack of access to broadband is why they don’t use the internet, according to the Tinder Foundation, which runs a network of digital training centres.

Chief executive Helen Milner told Cable.co.uk: “By the end of this decade everybody in the UK should have at least some access to broadband infrastructure.

“But if we do nothing about skills and motivation and affordability we’ll still have 6.2 million people who don’t have the basic digital skills they need by the end of this decade.”

She acknowledged that broadband access was a problem for people in rural areas but that the government has invested enough money in the upgrade process.

“It’s not that I’m not sympathetic about the broadband infrastructure problem. I’m just saying there’s a lot of money – there’s more than a billion pounds of public funding investment in that area – and I have to trust that it’s going to work for those people.

“I trust this government and the last government and the next government, who are all pledging to make the UK’s broadband infrastructure work for everybody.”

According to Ofcom, 80% of people who don’t use the internet say it’s because they have no motivation to do so.

“They say it’s not relevant to them or they’re not interested but other research has found there are issues around skills, confidence, cost and overall fear and lack of trust,” Ms Milner added.

“Skills and confidence are still important and the one we focus on the most because we know we can do something about it; we work with 5000 community organisations and public libraries to help people use the internet.”

Ms Milner also highlighted cost as a key barrier to digital inclusion: “It really appears that cost, or at least the perception of cost, is something that’s really important and is excluding people”.

Just under 20% of people in the UK are not currently online, according to the Tinder Foundation.

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