Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
Today I am publishing a refreshed combined Digital Inclusion Strategic Framework and Delivery Plan, which provides an update on progress since the original Framework was published in December 2010. It sets out our ambition that by 2020, everyone who wants to be is benefitting fully from the opportunities offered by digital technologies. For those who choose not to embrace the digital world, we will continue to raise awareness of the positive impact having the access, skills and motivation to use digital technologies can have on the lives of individuals, their families and their communities.
Improvements in our broadband infrastructure through our Superfast Cymru programme, cheaper and more user friendly devices like smartphones and tablets and continued improvements in the quality of online services, are all making the experience for digitally competent users better than ever. However, for those still excluded from the digital world, this represents a real disadvantage with people increasingly feeling left behind, as more and more services, including vital public services, go online.
We know digital inclusion can make a significant difference to people’s life chances, whether it is helping people find and progress in work; opening up improved learning opportunities; or helping squeezed incomes go further by purchasing cheaper online goods and services. It can also reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness by helping individuals stay in touch with friends or family and other support networks. Creating a more digitally inclusive society can make a significant contribution to achieving the seven goals of our ground-breaking Well-being for Future Generations (Wales) Act.
Digital exclusion, based on regular internet use, has fallen from 34% in 2010 to 19% in the latest National Survey for Wales figures from June 2015. Ofcom figures from August 2015 report even greater progress with Wales having the highest take-up of the internet than any other UK nation at 85%.
Through this refreshed Framework and Delivery Plan, the Welsh Government will continue to provide strategic leadership. However, only a concerted effort across the private, Third and public sectors can really achieve digital inclusion. This remains a cross cutting agenda which must be mainstreamed across all organisations and wider society.
In June 2014, we set revised targets to 2015 and 2017. These more stretching targets sought to balance ambition and realism. The latest research suggests progress has continued across all of our priority groups. However, despite significant activity, there has been slower progress amongst social housing tenants and disabled people, demonstrating the multiple challenges of addressing digital exclusion amongst these priority groups. We have maintained the challenging 2017 targets, even though, increasingly, we will be engaging with some of those most resistant to using digital technologies. We want everyone to have the motivation, skills and confidence to use digital technologies independently.
This refreshed Framework and Delivery Plan builds on the work Welsh Government and our partners have undertaken over the last ten years and reinforces our ongoing commitment to tackle this important issue. By continuing to work with partners utilising the levers we have in place to maximum effect, we aim to encourage everyone to realise the life changing potential of the digital world.
Through our investment in Digital Communities Wales, the successor to Communities 2.0, we have a dedicated initiative which is supporting the digital inclusion of individuals in partnership with organisations which work with the most digitally excluded groups. Digital Communities Wales has already helped an estimated 16,000 individuals through the support provided to over 420 organisations. Almost 800 volunteers and front line staff have been trained to help the ongoing assistance many individuals need.
We have made significant progress in helping to get more people to use and benefit from the latest digital technologies. Many more organisations across all sectors are embracing digital inclusion, recognising the importance of this agenda, both to themselves and to their customers. But we must not stop here.
The refreshed Plan will help ensure digitally excluded people are not left further behind as the inevitable shift to digital services, including vital public services, continues. I have seen so many examples of the life changing impact the internet and other digital technologies can have on people’s lives and I want everyone to have the same opportunity.
The Digital Inclusion Strategic Framework and Delivery Plan, which will remain a ‘living document’, is available on the digital inclusion pages of the Welsh Government website.