A new report, released by Good Things Foundation, sets out the economic impact of digital inclusion in the UK and finds that investment of £1.4 billion could reap economic benefits of up to £13.7 billion.
The paper is based on analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, commissioned by Good Things Foundation in partnership with Capita. It sets out the economic case for investing in interventions to help digitally excluded people build their basic digital skills.
The authors state that, “Understanding the scale of these economic benefits should be critical for those making decisions about policy and investment, at a national, regional and local level.”
The research is the latest of a series of reports from Good Things Foundation which makes the business case for digital inclusion. They estimate a £9.47 return for every £1 invested in digital inclusion.
The report highlights the progress that’s been made over recent years and estimates the number of people without basic digital skills in the UK has fallen from 12.4 million at the end of 2019 to an estimated 10.6 million by the end of 2022.
But there is clearly still a long way to go. The report claims that while the digital divide may have narrowed it has also deepened.
The report argues that without further intervention in building basic digital skills, 5.8 million people are estimated to remain digitally excluded by the end of 2032, of whom 3.7 million are aged 75 years or older.
Other findings include:
- estimated benefits to the government of £1.4 billion through efficiency savings alone, plus £483 million in increased tax revenue, with the NHS expected to save £899 million in addition
- a proportion of working-age adults still need digital skills support to gain work or better work. Meeting this need is estimated to generate £2.7 billion for corporations through filling basic digital skills vacancies, as well as £586 million in increased earnings, a further £179 million in additional earnings from finding work, and £76 million in environmental benefits
- citizens also benefit through time saved from using online government and banking services (valued at £3.9 billion) and money saved through online shopping (£3.5 billion).
The report also set out a number of recommendations. These form part of Good Things Foundation’s new strategy, ‘Fixing the Digital Divide – for Good’.
This strategy is built around creating lasting infrastructure for a digitally included society. This includes creating a National Databank, a National Device Bank, and a National Digital Inclusion Network. Local councils have a role to play in facilitating these national programs at a local level.
As the report states:
“Achieving a digitally included society will not happen without strategic, coordinated action targeted at the people and places where need is greatest, taking a holistic approach. Digital inclusion strategies at all levels – from county councils to combined authorities – should recognise that the most challenging stretch of the country’s digital inclusion journey lies ahead.
There is a risk that momentum will be lost, and lessons learned in the pandemic will be forgotten. The Cebr analysis provides a solid base from which local authorities, combined authorities, city regions and national governments can build their business case.
Even without monetizing the wider social, health and civic benefits (such as reduced loneliness) or calculating cost savings in other sectors (like social care), the economic case for investing in digital inclusion is clear”.
How councils can use the report
Data in the report can help councils to build their business case for the financial impact and benefits of digital inclusion.
To help build their Business Case, 100% Digital Leeds used a previous version of a CEBR report in their report to Leeds City Council Scrutiny Board in February 2017. You can see how they used the data on page 7 of the report. 100% Digital Leeds still report regularly to the same Scrutiny Board.
You can read all of the reports on their website, including how their business case developed in subsequent years and how they evidence the impact of their work.
Thanks to Good Things Foundation for including a link to our website in the resources section of the report.