The Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Ltd. (LLEP) has launched a Call for Evidence on digital poverty in Leicester and Leicestershire.
Digital skills have become more important than ever since the onset of Covid-19. Changes in working practices demand digital skills to allow people to work from home, while economic activity such as shopping and accessing services has moved online.
Businesses have had to adopt digital technologies to stay viable. It is accepted that those without digital skills will become disadvantaged in terms of employment prospects. However, the level of digital skills across the population and the workforce is still below where it needs to be.
Digital poverty is the inability to use IT, either due to the lack of access to IT equipment or data allowances, or due to the lack of digital skills. The main cause of digital exclusion is age, but other significant factors (which are often combined with low income) include location, disability, learning difficulties, ethnic origin, culture, and language.
Partners and stakeholders that deliver services to local communities and businesses are therefore invited by the LLEP to submit evidence to this digital poverty Call for Evidence.
The LLEP is seeking evidence from a wide range of organisations already actively involved in addressing digital poverty. These include local authorities, voluntary and community sectors, business representative organisations and skills and education providers from across Leicester and Leicestershire that hold evidence relating to the current status of digital poverty in the region.
The results will help to inform potential future investments in digital skills and IT provision, which will assist with the broader economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic in Leicester and Leicestershire.
Kevin Harris is Chair of the LLEP Board of Directors. He said:
“Over the past two decades, the internet and information technology have become utilities on a par with electricity or plumbing. Every business and household has a basic need to connect to the internet in order to participate in modern life and be economically active.
“Ensuring that all local people have access to the internet and IT, and the skills necessary to use them effectively is of critical importance to building a productive local economy. This Call for Evidence is therefore of huge importance, as it will allow us to build strategies that will effectively tackle the pockets of digital poverty that exist in our region, and ensure the people and businesses of Leicester and Leicestershire are equipped to thrive in the digital age.”
The LLEP has already made significant strides to address digital poverty through its European Social Fund (ESF) allocation. Supported programmes include Moneywise Plus, which offers digital support to help individuals become more confident online.