FutureDotNow – Written evidence (FFF0049)

FutureDotNow is coordinating industry action to equip working-age adults across the UK with, at least, the digital skills deemed essential by the Government as documented in the Essential Digital Skills (EDS) Framework. Improving the digital capability of the UK workforce is essential to both the personal prosperity of individuals and that of UK plc. For everyone to benefit from digitisation, the public services workforce – as well as the services provided

must be part of the digital transformation journey.

 

Designing a public services workforce fit for the future

In responding to this consultation, FutureDotNow recognises that, with more and more public services provided and consumed digitally, the design of a public services workforce fit for the future is underpinned by digital transformation. However, in considering new user needs in the 21st century, it is critical to understand current levels of digital capability in the UK, what this means for service provision and, therefore, the public services workforce.

The Consumer Digital Index tracks the state of the nation’s basic digital capability using the three tiers of capability (foundation, life and work skills) defined in the Government’s Essential Digital Skills (EDS) Framework1.

The latest consumer data set (the 2021 Essential Digital Skills Report2) showed:


such as the ability to turn on a device, use a browser or connect to wi-fi. They are off-line / completely digitally excluded.


To have ‘EDS for Work’ an

individual must have a minimum of 5 of the 17 essential digital skills for work, 1 in each of the 5 skill areas.

So, whilst an estimated 58% of public service sector workers have the EDS for work that doesn’t mean they have the full suite of skills in the framework, are able to engage fully with the digital workplace or are equipped to respond to further digitisation.


 

These numbers are so significant it can be hard to believe that they are true. With technology reaching into so much of how we live and work, it is easy to assume that everyone is keeping up with technology and able to pick up the digital basics. However, the data consistently demonstrates this is not the case.

 

 

 


1 See Appendix A for overview. Link to full framework The Essential Digital Skills Framework.

2 Lloyds Bank 2021 Essential Digital Skills Report


The UK Business Digital Skills Index3 published in Feb 2022, paints an equally challenging picture when looking at the basic digital capability of sole traders, with an estimated 53% not equipped with the Essential Digital Skills in the Government framework, and 35% not using their mobile phones to run their businesses when on the move. That means millions of people who are most dependent on work-related online public services such as self- assessment tax returns and managing a pension are not equipped for digitisation, putting greater pressure on the public services workforce.

A public services workforce that is fit for the future must be made up of individuals that are digitally confident and equipped with the basics that will enable them to grow and flex in line with future demands. The data starkly indicates that this is not the case today.

Understanding the current level of digital capability across the UK population – the users of public services - is also critical. Unless there is a significant shift in the basic digital competence and confidence of UK citizens, digital transformation of public services will only be able to move so far, continuing to require significant levels of non-digital provision from the public service workforce.

We welcome the opportunity to engage further on this subject as might be useful to the Committee.

 


Further reading:  FutureDotNow’s 2021-22 Annual Review, Collective action for a digital world, looks at post-pandemic data, and present a ‘state of the nation’ for workplace digital skills, reflecting on the huge impact Covid-19 has had on digital habits, and the work still to be done.

 

Appendix A:              Essential Digital Skills Framework overview

extracted from FutureDotNow’s Hidden Middle Report, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


3 UK Business Digital Index


Appendix A: Essential Digital Skills Framework overview

 

extracted from FutureDotNow’s Hidden Middle Report, 2021