• News
  • Manchester Digital in the Press

Manchester Digital in the Press

Britain needs to bank on total digital literacy 

Nine per cent of the UK population have never been online. But a familiar presence on the high street is determined to help people change that. Digital champion Nick Williams, discusses the Lloyds Digital Inclusion Index.

Digital skills are the fourth form of literacy, according to Nick Williams, consumer and commercial digital managing director at Lloyds Banking Group and the Group’s Ambassador for the North of England. Responsible for the Group’s 12.8 million digital customers, Nick is on a mission with his team and partners to get more people online – not just to improve their finances but also to help communities.

The benefits for those with digital skills are startling. Lloyds Banking Group has launched its second Consumer Digital Index in association with its partners including the Tech Partnership. The largest study of its kind shows that a million more people in the UK are using the internet than last year, although 9 per cent are still offline. Nick says: “There is still a real digital divide. Those who have digital skills stand to gain and those who don’t will be missing out.”

Last year’s Index showed that, on average, people can save £744 a year online. The 2017 Index looks at how that money is saved. People can save more than £400 a year using online discount and cashback sites.

“People say, ‘There is no benefit for me from being online,’ yet we can see there is, financially and societally,” Nick says. “From my experience, to get people online takes a real partnership approach. No organisation can solve this problem alone. We need all organisations, from retailers to job centres to community centres to broaden the digital conversation.” of partnerships. This includes the Good Things Foundation with 100 UK Online Centres opening this year, and Code Club where colleagues from the Group’s IT division help teach coding skills to young people.

By utilising relationships with media, charities, practitioners and other institutions, the Group has already seen successes with its range of partnerships. This includes the Good Things Foundation with 100 UK Online Centres opening this year, and Code Club where colleagues from the Group’s IT division help teach coding skills to young people.

Nick says: “Together with reading, writing and numeracy, digital skills are critical. Children who have good IT skills gain better qualifications. Furthermore, 90 per cent of jobs require some basic digital skills.”

Boosting digital skills goes beyond individuals, and Lloyds Bank is working with Google to provide training to charities and small businesses, helping them get online and reach customers. As part of the Government’s Digital Strategy, the Group has pledged to help 2.5 million people and organisations by 2020 as part of its Helping Britain Prosper Plan. “We’ll never convince the 11.5 million people without basic digital skills to get online through writing white papers or above-the-line campaigns, but through face-to-face contact,” Nick says, “and that is where our Digital Champions come in.” Lloyds currently has 24,000 colleague volunteers who help people, small businesses and charities develop their digital skills.

Nick says opening a conversation is easier within the safe and trusted environment of a local Online Centre or branch. He says: “I talk about trusted faces in local places. We are already in these communities.” Examples include a man of 102 who has just started out online and a woman with mobility issues who no longer has to worry about going out in bad weather to pay her credit card bill.

Nick is the lead for the North of England Ambassador Programme, which aims to understand the regional challenges and identify opportunities for the Group to support growth and development.

A study by Manchester Digital found that 20 per cent of digital firms have turned down work because they cannot find the right staff, and 18 per cent have outsourced work to outside the UK due to a lack of digital skills. Lloyds Banking Group is responding to this by hosting a session for more than 400 Manchester school children called Discover Your Digital Future - hoping to inspire children to join the tech industry. “It is about thinking beyond our own doorstep, about providing a service to the community.”