In the age of social media, it is easy to assume all young people are on the same side of the digital divide. That they all spend their free time on Instagram and Snapchat, tapping away on their smartphones, uploading, liking and commenting on content.
Yes, both social networks are dominated by young users but these young users are at one end of the digital spectrum. On the other end, you will find many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with very important gaps in digital skills. In fact, 15% of young people state they lack confidence in their skills to use the internet.
Of course, lacking “confidence in (their) skills to use the internet” could make one think they are simply missing out on surfing the web and clicking through YouTube video after YouTube video.
Yet it’s more than that. The internet is how we apply for jobs, find homes, find college places and get advice and support. Lacking confidence in using the internet will not only impact a young person’s personal life, it will impact their professional life too.
Furthermore, Oxford University’s Internet Surveys programme identified nearly 100,000 young people as “a-digital” (OXIS, 2013). More worryingly, by the time they reach employment age, a tenth of young people who are Not in Education, Employment or Training are “out of their depth” using a computer (Prince’s Trust, 2015).
It is clear this digital inequality must be tackled.
The youth sector – with it’s highly skilled professionals experienced in working with young people from challenging backgrounds and with complex needs – is well placed to make a positive difference and to cut the digital gap.
From 2012 to 2015, we worked with tech giant Microsoft and 75 youth organisations across the country to deliver Microsoft Youth Hubs. An innovative programme that has seen over 11,000 young people benefit from access to digital resources and as well as training in technology, business, or life skills as part of the scheme.
This year we are upping the ante. As part of Generation Code, our new Microsoft-funded programme, UK Youth will train 440 youth workers in hundreds of centres across the UK to help 16,000 young people learn computing skills and coding.
We are proud of the work the youth sector is doing to counter digital inequality and we know we are making a positive difference to young lives.
Being named a Digital Leader, an annual celebration of digital pioneers from across the UK’s public, private and non-profit sectors, for our work with Microsoft is an incredible honour.
It recognises the impact UK Youth, Microsoft and the youth sector has had on chipping away at that digital divide.
Please show your support by casting a vote and helping us secure top spots in both categories we’ve been nominated in: Charity Digital Leader of the Year and Digital Inclusion and Skills Initiative of the Year.