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Can the governments solve the digital skills gap?

The lack of skilled IT workers really takes a toll on the Industry and the economy. There are a lot of missed opportunities due to the digital skills gap.

Most IT companies try to solve the issue themselves. They set up training academies, train people themselves or get courses for employees. Some governments are also trying to help out.

Last week the UK government revealed yet another plan to improve the digital skills of the nation. It’s the result of months of work to create the so-called framework to ensure the development of UK’s digital economy and improving skills. ComputerWeekly noted, the strategy was slated for last spring. Brexit changed plans though and the authors decided to wait for the results from the referendum. After that they saw they would have to rework a lot of it to take into account the fallout from Brexit.

Big goals, little aim

Despite claims that the plan pays attention to every detail, some commentaries aren’t that optimistic. They see the plan to highlight the issues, but still lacks targets. Still, the government want’s to help create “more than four million free digital skills training opportunities”, digital connectivity. Naturally, the plan gathered the criticism of the British shadow government, law firms and even the Camden Labour Council. Most welcome the initiative of the government to step up and offer solutions, but don’t agree with the goals or the lack of ways to measure the targets.

The plan says that this year the UK government will “undertake a feasibility study this year on the viability of using outcome commissioning frameworks, such as payment by results or social impact bonds, to tackle digital exclusion”. It will also develop the roles of libraries to improve the digital inclusion. The plan also wants to make them the places where people from the community can go for digital access and trainings.

Google, Lloyds, Accenture and others have announced they will foster digitals skills throughout Britain. All of this is part of the goal of the government to solve the digital skills gap, even after the UK leaves the EU. This will likely further increase the gap. There will be special visa program for that, too. The goal is to have visible effects from the plan by 2020.

We need it yesterday

And therein lies the actual problem. That’s too far away. And there are 12 million lacking basic digital skills in the UK alone. At best, the plan will help solve only a third of that problem. The country also lacks the deployment of full fiber connections to homes and businesses. It aims to have 7% deployment by 2020. This is a level that Latvia and Lithuania reached back in 2012. Still, the government will invest £740 million in digital infrastructure.

Even so, it’s still slow. Derek McManus, chief operating officer of O2, said that mobile connectivity will drive long-term growth and that by 2026 an effective rollout of 5G will add more than £7bn to the UK economy, ComputerWeekly added.

It’s great that the government sees the ways it can help the IT industry. The problem is, it still operates at its own traditional pace. A pace which can’t even come close to the rhythm of the IT industry. It’s much faster than any industry in history and this brings a lot of other challenges. One of them is to promote other industries and governments to change, modernize and become faster, too. It’s the first thing they should do before trying to solve other problems. Otherwise, they can’t really help but mostly waste time and resources. Still, it’s a step in the right direction, but more effort is needed, especially in the speed department.

Image credit: Flickr (CC) / nigelpepper