Post by Julie James, MS, Minister for Housing and Local Government
This is the fifth in a series of blogs outlining the ambitions and plans for our Digital Strategy for Wales. Further information can be found in the other posts in the series: introductory blog ; Mission 1 ; Mission 2 ; Mission 3.
Mission 4: equip people with the motivation, access, skills and confidence to engage with an increasingly digital world, based on their needs
I am a passionate, driven, advocate for digital inclusion. The pandemic has highlighted our reliance on digital – whether it has been to access health services, maintain contact with loved ones or carry out routine daily activities such as ordering groceries.
However, for those who are not digitally confident, this greater dependence on digital has emphasised the ever widening digital divide. Digital inclusion is no longer a ‘nice to have’. It is essential to be part of a modern society. That is why it underpins all of the missions in our digital strategy.
We have reached the point where all sectors have to recognise, embrace and deliver services for all citizens, not just those who are digitally included. We cannot deliver innovation through digital technology without considering the needs of all existing and potential service users.
Ever greater investment in infrastructure, connectivity and access to devices alone won’t solve the problem.
Digital Inclusion: a social justice challenge
Digital is an approach to solving problems based on user needs and wants. As my colleague Lee Waters said in his first blog about the digital strategy – it’s not just about computers. It’s about people.
We want to support everyone in Wales to gain the motivation, confidence and skills to use digital tools and services. They can then make informed decisions about how they participate in, and make the most of, our increasingly digital world – something many of us take for granted these days.
For those who cannot or decide not to participate digitally, we must ensure there are alternative ways to access services – developed to be just as good as those offered online.
Digital tools and technologies can help make people’s lives better in lots of ways. We have an opportunity to tackle wider social justice issues such as financial and social exclusion through the use of technology, but need to ensure everyone can fully participate.
In December 2020, we published our Digital Inclusion Forward Look: towards a digitally confident Wales. To build on this Forward Look, I believe the following four actions are essential. They demonstrate the role digital inclusion MUST play if we are to innovate and ensure the Welsh economy prospers:
So, what are we doing?
We rely on our £2million per annum procured programme Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being, which is delivered by the Wales Co-Operative Centre. The programme engages a wide range of organisations across all sectors best placed to reach and support people who are digitally excluded. It does this by providing staff and volunteers with the digital skills and confidence they need.
Digital Communities Wales plays a critical role in ensuring organisations consider and embed digital inclusion principles as standard practice. The film below illustrates the impact supporting care home residents to become digitally confident has had during such challenging times of this pandemic.
As we develop the next phase of digital inclusion policy, we will continue to work with Digital Communities Wales to capture the views of organisations supporting digital inclusion delivery, and who are aware of the barriers faced. We will continue to work closely with the Centre for Digital Public Services and the Chief Digital Officers for the Welsh Government, Health, and Local Government to ensure we have buy-in from senior leaders to deliver our mission of a digitally confident Wales.
A plan for delivery
This mission, like the others, will have a clear plan for action and we know many of these ambitions are long term. In fact, work has already started on identifying the actions that need to be undertaken if we are to achieve what we’ve laid out above. Once developed the action plans will be shared and will act as living documents with progress regularly reported on.
Getting your feedback
I invite you to join us on this journey. Please tell us what you think about our ambition for this mission.
- Do you think these are the right actions?
- What do you see as the barriers for gaining sector wide buy-in?
- Do you think there are any gaps and, if so, what are they?
- What would your priorities be? Are there examples from outside of Wales where digital inclusion drives improved service delivery e.g. NHS Digital?
I encourage you all, as advocates for digital and on behalf of citizens who may not have a digital voice, to help us gather the wider views and comments of those who may not have access to this blog and may otherwise miss the opportunity to contribute.
Please share this blog as widely as you can, and ask questions of any friends, family members and neighbours who you know do not engage with digital.
Please share your comments with us by filling in the online form where you can feedback on all or some of the missions or you can leave a comment below. The online form and comments will be open until 31 January 2021.
While we will not be responding to each individual comment, rest assured we will be taking all feedback into account when developing the Digital Strategy for Wales.