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Tackling the digital divide through partnership – with Virgin Media O2 Business

A special podcast from Spotlight, the New Statesman’s policy supplement.

The internet is vital to our economy; 82 per cent of jobs in the UK now require digital skills, according to the Digital Poverty Alliance.

But research conducted by Virgin Media O2 Business found that more than a third of people have been unable to complete simple tasks – such as book a GP appointment – online in the last year, while a third say that a lack of digital skills has held back their earning potential.

Limited access to connectivity, digital devices and skills are restricting people and negatively impacting their employability, health and ability to stay in touch with loved ones. This is called “digital exclusion” – and businesses and the public sector can play a key role in helping to tackle it.

In this special episode sponsored by Virgin Media O2 Business, a leading telecoms company providing organisations of all sizes with digital connectivity, we speak with charity and business leaders about the crucial role partnership can play in closing the digital divide by helping local communities get connected.

The journalist Jon Bernstein was joined by Martin McFadyen, head of public sector at Virgin Media O2 Business; Emma Stone, director of evidence and engagement at the Good Things Foundation; Emma Weston, chief executive at Digital Unite; and Holly Smith, creative partner at the environmental charity, Hubbub.

The podcast explored how collaboration between telecoms providers, local government and the third sector is crucial to enable more people to become digitally included. Schemes such as tech donation programmes for disadvantaged people and skills workshops were discussed as ways to boost digital literacy and connectivity, while also enabling businesses to work towards their ever-important environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

Participants explored the environmental, as well as social, benefits of digitalisation, and how an inclusive shift to digital services can significantly help to decarbonise the public sector. The group also discussed how closing the digital divide could be of long-term benefit to businesses themselves, beyond meeting their ESG goals – such as through giving them access to wider talent pools in future, and creating a greater level of digital literacy among the UK workforce.

Listen to the podcast in full above or on the Spotlight on Policy podcast channel.

Read Virgin Media O2 Business’s Spotlight on ESG report here.