Sarah  Bridges 

Director of Programmes and Partnerships at Go On UK

I have been a digital champion for over 20 years. To me, this means that I have spent my time inspiring and supported individuals and people in organisations to gain the Basic Digital Skills they need to benefit from digital services and the internet.

I have had the pleasure of working directly and indirectly with hundreds of organisations and thousands of digital champions who have been working hard to help people gain and utilise Basic Digital Skills.

My interest in learning and technology began in the early 1990s. I joined British Airways as a Learning and Development Consultant. I set up a global network of learning centres before moving on to become a Programme Manager at the airline, delivering large scale change programmes.

In 2003 I joined UK online centres, I managed regional programmes which helped over a million people gain the Basic Digital Skills they needed to benefit from using the internet. I then proceeded to use this experience when I led on UX for the organisation. Building for people without, or with a very low level of, Basic Digital Skills was both challenging and rewarding.

I believe that everybody deserves digital services that meet their needs and that they are able to use effectively.

I now work at Go ON UK, a digital skills charity whose aim is to empower everybody in the UK to be able to reach their digital potential. Technology offers huge opportunities for organisations and individuals but there are currently 10.5 million people in the UK that don’t have the skills to take advantage of what digital offers.

The Importance of Research and Partnership in Tackling Digital Exclusion

Presented at Camp Digital 2015

In the UK, there are currently 10.5 million adults who are not enjoying the benefits that digital can provide. This number equates to 1 in 5. By bringing this number down, we will not only help millions of individuals, but will also begin to unlock more of the UK’s social and economic potential.

Go ON UK, along with many other organisations across the country, is working to reduce the level of digital exclusion and to ensure that everybody is able to use digital services; user experience is key to this and will ultimately determine whether people are digitally included or not.

To reach this huge potential, and to improve lives, we need to re-examine our approaches to reaching and working with the digitally excluded. At present, the digital skills delivery landscape in the UK is fragmented and often duplicative.

It is excellent that a broad spectrum of approaches exist, from digital inclusion intermediaries such as libraries and post offices, to face-to-face interactions via digital champions to online resources and tools; but we must ensure that these approaches work together to reduce digital exclusion effectively. We need to find new ways to work in partnership; we need to share our experiences and learn from one another so that we are all able to be as efficient as possible moving forward.

We must make sure that everyone is able to easily use all of these great tools and experiences that digital and the internet provides.

There are over 10 million potential brand new users of digital technology. Fear remains a key barrier to people going online or using digital products and so the easier it is for them to use the websites, apps and programs created, the more likely they are to further develop their digital skills.

How can we work together to ensure that those who could benefit from using digital services have access and appropriate support to do so?