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: