Written evidence submitted by Good Things Foundation


Good Things Foundation is the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity. Our mission is to fix the digital divide – for good, and we work with a network of thousands of hyperlocal community organisations to achieve this. We want everyone to have: the internet access they need; somewhere local to go for help to use the internet; and to feel able and safe in the online world.


As the leading digital inclusion charity in the UK, Good Things Foundation welcomes the Public Accounts Committee’s consultation following the NAO’s report on developing workforce skills for a strong economy. We hope that by drawing on our work, we can emphasise the need for a skills strategy which recognises the importance of basic digital skills, and the valued place of informal, community-based learning in building these skills as part of a more integrated and relevant workplace skills ecosystem.



  1. We welcome the National Audit Office’s (NAO) report into workforce skills. Whilst the report primarily focused on technical skills, we welcome the acknowledgement that “basic digital skills are predicted to be the area with the largest shortage”.[1]


  1. As a national charity supporting thousands of community-based organisations to deliver basic digital skills, we know the significant value that this work has in helping people to get better-paid jobs and improve their wellbeing. Our Strategy for 2022-2025[2] highlights our National Digital Inclusion Network as a core tenet to fixing the digital divide and to unlocking our economy through basic digital skills provision.
  2. The Government’s Essential Digital Skills entitlement is encouraging as it signals that basic digital skills are as essential as literacy and numeracy for everyone, everywhere.[3]


  1. However, the Levelling Up White Paper does not acknowledge the scale of the challenges that those without basic digital skills face. Many people will not have traditionally engaged with formal adult education opportunities and as a consequence, turn to the community and voluntary sector who have a rich understanding of material and motivational barriers that they face. Without ample investment into this sector and the digital inclusion support they provide, a levelled up nation is unachievable. The Lloyds Consumer Digital Index contextualises these challenges, reporting that 40% of those who are offline earn less than £15k a year and 47% of those offline 'just aren't interested' in the internet and digital skills.[4]


  1. Recent findings from the Cebr show how investment of £1.4 billion into digital inclusion and skills could reap economic benefits of £13.7 billion for the UK – this is a net present value of £9.48 for every £1 invested[5]. Investment to fix the digital divide, primarily through community-based digital skills development, is critical to grow our economy.


  1. We know from experience that employer-led initiatives are not always the best route to gaining digital skills This is best illustrated by our DfE funded (previously, Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills) Future Digital Inclusion programme which supported our Network model – and the thousands of community organisations that are apart of that – in England between 2014-2021.[6]


  1. The Future Digital Inclusion initiative met people where they were. It was set up to support adults needing help with basic digital skills - targeting people in England who were unemployed or on a low income, people with disabilities, people living in a rural area, and offering tailored, informal learning opportunities delivered by community organisations to help people on their digital inclusion journey - to build basic digital skills for life and, where appropriate, for work.


  1. People who were supported by the FDI programme were supported by their local Network centre on issues as varied as sending an email to help with online shopping, accessing Universal Credit to job-seeking support.
  2. We saw the impact of investment into hyperlocal provision through the FDI programme, coordinated by us at a national level: over 1.5 million people were supported to learn basic digital skills, with 84% of people supported by a centre progressing to further learning, 36% progressing to a course leading to a qualification, and 74% accessing online government services for the first time due to the programme.[7]


  1. Developing basic digital skills in a safe, supportive environment is the first step towards creating a highly digitally skilled and connected Britain, and arguably the most pivotal.


  1. Our Future Digital Inclusion programme was cost-effective, with the programme’s average cost per learning outcome as £15 - reflecting the strengths of the community sector’s reach, engagement, and flexibility of support in developing people’s workforce skills.[8]
  2. We have applied our learnings from the Future Digital Inclusion programme to our Digital Skills Pathway pilot projects with three combined authorities, funded by the UK Community Renewal Fund. Through these three pilots, we're building further evidence on the vital role of informal, community-based learning as a pipeline to progression and workforce skills development in regions across the UK.[9]
  3. We recognise that there remains a role for employer-based skills training. For example, the FutureDotNow coalition unites businesses which provide digital skills training to their employees – both basic and more advanced skills – including ASDA, Lloyds Bank, and pwc.[10]


  1. The Government should take note of best practice from the employer-led approach to digital skills development amongst businesses within the FutureDotNow coalition, blending this with community-led provision of basic digital skills to form a cohesive workforce skills strategy.
  2. By doing so, the Government will help to build a skills development network which supports employees and learners, meeting where they are at the moment, rather than forcing them into courses and qualifications which don’t fit their needs and circumstances.




October 2022

[1] National Audit Office (2022). Developing workforce skills for a strong economy - National Audit Office (NAO) report.

[2] Good Things Foundation (2022). Good Things Foundation strategy: 2022-2025.

[3] Department for Education (2022). Free qualifications for adults with low digital skills - GOV.UK

[4] Lloyds Bank (2021). UK Consumer Digital Index 2021 | Lloyds Bank.

[5] Cebr (2022). The economic impact of digital inclusion in the UK.

[6] Good Things Foundation (2019). Future Digital Inclusion.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Good Things Foundation (2022). Digital Skills Pathway Projects - UKCRF - Good Things Foundation.

[10] FutureDotNow (2022). FutureDotNow.