LibLink: Jamie Stone on the digital revolution

Jamie Stone is the Lib Dem spokesperson for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and he has written an article “Ministers must ensure no one is left behind by the digital revolution” in The House magazine.

Talking of his constituents in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, he writes:

Many still do not have access to any broadband, let alone high-speed broadband. With such poor infrastructure, it is virtually impossible to conceive of how communities like mine can avoid being left behind as this digital revolution continues apace.

But I beg the Government to do more to invest in those communities that are currently not well-served by digital technologies to make sure we do not fall through the net of progress.

To date, in my patch, we have seen post offices, banks and other services disappear at a rate of knots, leaving my constituents strapped for cash (not that anyone is taking cash these days), and unable to access basic financial services without – in many cases – driving for miles and miles. For those who are not mobile, the growing isolation they face is extremely alarming.

He refers to the ways in which jobs are changing as technology evolves:

Many of the millions of people who may face redundancy as a result of Covid-19 will be terrified that they will not be able to find new work, because they simply don’t have the relevant skills to break through.

That is why I am joining my colleague Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, in calling on the Government to back our party’s plan for ‘Skills Wallets’, which would give everyone £10,000 to spend on life-long education and training.

This would be made up of an initial £4,000 Government investment when people turn 25, a further £3,000 when they turn 40 and, finally, another £3,000 at the age of 55.

And finally …

… as well as vital investment in skills and training, the Government must make sure people are confident about how to access services digitally, from healthcare appointments to council services to online banking.

Right now, millions of people, especially those who are elderly or isolated, may be at sea when it comes to using these types of technology.

Ministers must focus on finding new ways to support those who are struggling, and signpost where they can go for support in using new technologies.

He concludes:

The digital revolution is already transforming everyday life.

With the right approach, digital technology could transform access to services for all, including the most isolated communities.

But this requires investment in internet infrastructure, a focus on lifelong learning, and real commitment to assisting individuals struggling to access online services.

Ministers have a duty to do all that they can to ensure no one is left behind.

 

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One Comment

  • Peter Martin 5th Nov '20 - 1:18pm

    “… give everyone £10,000 to spend on life-long education and training. This would be made up of an initial £4,000 Government investment when people turn 25, a further £3,000 when they turn 40 and, finally, another £3,000 at the age of 55.”

    This isn’t a particularly well targetted use of resources. Some will welcome extra education and training. Some won’t and may not need it. Often because it happens naturally during the course of their everyday jobs. And employers should be encouraged to provide training for which they could be offered some financial inducement such as being able to offset costs against tax at a higher than natural rate.

    Money should be be taretted at those who want to learn rather than just handing it out to everyone. We used to have a well funded system of technical colleges and day release classes for all young workers. Let’s refund them. There’s no reason anyone should have to wait until they are particular age to spend whatever might be in a “wallet”. The assumption should be that if anyone wants to learn there should be a way for them to do it without it costing much at all.

    The WEA is still in existence and is doing good work.

    https://www.wea.org.uk/

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