30 November 2020

Most people have had no recent help to improve their digital skills, despite the pandemic moving personal and professional life online, according to a new survey.

Some 83% of UK adults said they had not received any support to improve their tech skills over the last six months, the poll by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT found.

Most offers of help with digital skills came from employers (57%), over a quarter (28%) from family and friends and 13% from organisations like government and training providers.

Asked about specific software, nearly a third (31%) of people are not confident with basic data management using an Excel spreadsheet, the professional body for IT reported.

The research follows an issue with the NHS track and trace system where people testing positive for COVID-19 were not recorded once an Excel spreadsheet reached its maximum capacity.

A large majority of people (89%) agreed that digital skills would be important to the UK’s long-term economic prosperity. Despite this, most of the adults surveyed (62%) said they were not concerned about their level of tech training affecting their career prospects.

More than 2,000 people responded to the survey conducted for BCS by YouGov.

Rebecca George OBE, President of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT said: “The digital divide is a modern measure of inequality. Over 9m people in the UK lack basic tech skills1 which are key to levelling up social inequality and to turbo-charging the workplace post-COVID.

“So to learn that the vast majority of people don’t recall an offer to improve their abilities in using basic software is concerning. We want to help government and industry ensure that every adult and child has the right level of digital education or training for them to succeed.

“That means promoting opportunities to take a really broad range of digital qualifications - from the school curriculum to professional training in the workplace.”

The survey was carried out in advance of BCS’s Festival of Digital Skills. The conference will bring together key figures, including Skills Minister Gillian Keegan, to discuss the tech challenges faced throughout the UK workforce.

Notes to editors
1All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2072 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2-3 November 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

For the following set of questions, by 'digital skills' we mean the ability to use computing software such as Microsoft Word, Excel, or Teams / Zoom and email, as well as navigating social media and web content effectively to communicate and share information online.

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