Adults need help to get online as one in five struggle to use the internet

20th April 2014 at 09:00

An adult education body has called for more funding to set up new projects to help adult learners use the internet.

The National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (Niace) has welcomed the government’s new digital inclusion strategy, which aims to get 2.7 million people online in the next two years, but said more needs to be done to embed digital skills in courses.

It is estimated that around 21 per cent of Britain’s population currently lack the basic digital skills and capabilities needed to use the internet, though that is expected to fall to 19 per cent by 2016.

Despite this, the government believes that just under 10 per cent of the adult population may never be able to gain basic digital capabilities, either because of disabilities or basic literacy skills.

David Hughes, chief executive of Niace, said that some of the most vulnerable adults are unable to access public services and other vital information online.

“To address this challenge, Niace wants to see more emphasis on accessibility for users challenged by literacy in the development of online government services,” he said.

“We are also supporting the education world to develop better integration of digital skills in learning at all ages and want to see teachers, lecturers and tutors supported and encouraged to use technology more effectively.”

Mr Hughes said recent community learning funds that Niace has managed for the Skills Funding Agency have illustrated how relatively small amounts of funding can make a significant impact.

“I would like to see more funding to allow replication of proven approaches as well as to explore new ones,” he added.

“Many organisations are already taking community approaches to digital inclusion, but we need more programmes – particularly in rural areas and for marginalised groups - which embed digital skills in learning, prioritising literacy, numeracy and work-related skills.”

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