Over the last nine months, we have seen a new form of inequality reveal itself before our eyes: the digital divide.
Even before the pandemic highlighted the need for elevating the role of digital in driving economic growth, the UK was facing a huge digital skills gap. In Scotland, where the IT skills gap has long loomed over the business community, about three quarters of employers reported difficulties in recruiting qualified digital staff at the beginning of this year.
The incentive for bridging the digital skills gap is strong. Estimates show that the existing skills gap in Britain amounts to losing around £63bn in GDP each year – a figure that is set to grow given the rapid shift in ways of working across sectors.
There is no doubt that the onset of the pandemic has fast-forwarded digital adoption, with more than half of workforces reporting improvement in their digital skill-sets.
But behold, the digital transformation hasn’t only had implications for home-office workers. For those with jobs which cannot be done from home, lockdown disruptions have resulted in many quickly developing essential IT skills that as, Andrew Hill argues, could have profound implications for future job design.
While it is true that the pandemic has expedited the government’s response to bridging the digital skills gap, it also creates an impetus for accelerating its digital transformation ambitions. The job support schemes unveiled by Rishi Sunak last week were a welcome step in the right direction, but they failed to address UK’s significant digital skills shortage.
With the OECD’s latest economic outlook forecasting that the UK’s economic recovery will lag behind nearly every other major economy, it seems more crucial than ever that the government seizes on the newly found confidence in adopting digital technology and invest in upskilling the UK workforce. Let IT be!