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Written by Julie Hawker MBE, Joint CEO at Cosmic.

This summer we are witnessing a plethora of national and regional reports shining very bright lights on key issues for businesses, the economy, environment and people. We might safely assume that many political arrows are being shaped and sharpened, as well as businesses seeking their new competitive advantages and marketplaces of the future.

Some of these reports point directly to the need for digital skills, whilst others maximise the evidence for priorities over the coming years, and in particular how our economy evolves in favour of clean and inclusive growth for all businesses, and for all people. 

A report published by House of Lords at the end of June, aims to dismiss any illusions about the state of digital exclusion in the UK. The evidence is clear and shows that despite the major gains during the pandemic years, the country is still burdened by a high number of adults without digital skills (around 10 million), with around 1 million households having disconnected their broadband supply due to cost-of-living pressures, and with school children leaving education with no digital skills at all. 2.4 million adults are not able to complete a single basic task to get online, and a forecast that 5 million workers who will be acutely under-skilled in basic digital skills by 2030. And all this at a time when the UK economy is groaning from the strain of low innovation, and lower productivity levels.

SWBC and the SW Social Mobility Commission hosted a joint event at the start of July to share updated evidence of the poor performance of our region and to develop action plans to take recommendations forwards. Without specifically referencing digital, and with a focus on younger people, it provides an excellent platform from which we can research and develop our understanding of the role which digital skills will play in addressing social mobility. Cosmic is fully committed to this work, and to building collaborations across the region to innovate and progress on social mobility through digital skills and capabilities.

Meanwhile, our partners over at Wildanet are forging ahead with their plans for enhanced connectivity across Devon and Cornwall, with a new report identifying the massive value of improved digital connections. The link across to digital inclusion and digital skills is very clearly made, with strong recommendations for enhanced investment in skills – for personal and for business.  And so, with over 25 years of experience in this field, Cosmic continues its work alongside key digital infrastructure providers to ensure that as people and businesses access improvements, and they are also able to make the most of the impact with increased knowledge, skills and wellbeing.

And most recently, the report published by FutureDotNow this summer is making a significant case to government and business alike for major investment in digital upskilling for the UK workforce. To ensure that the major (£145 million) economic uplift identified in the research is achievable.  The report and associated roadmap and recommendations, include some alarming statistics about the state of the current workforce, 59% of which is not able to complete all of the digital tasks essential for work, and 8% of the workforce cannot do even one of these tasks. An even higher proportion, 60% of the workforce struggle with skills related to being safe and legal online. The statistics are broadly the same across geographic regions of the UK, and whilst the older age groups are more likely to be missing skills than younger groups, the youngest (18-24) is not the most digital capable, that accolade goes to the 25– 34 year olds.

Most insightful of all is that its the industry sector which provides the greatest determiner of digital capability. The lowest is construction where only 25% of people can complete these essential digital tasks, whereas media and advertising sits at 68% and technology businesses at 67%.  But, hold on, this means that even in our most digital of businesses, a third of the workforce does not have the digital skills essential for the modern workplace.

Ensuring that businesses understand and can plan for all staff to achieve the digital skills is fundamental to business success in the years ahead, but equally important is the change of culture in all businesses to ensure that digital is a priority, and that all staff can benefit from enhanced skills and learning. And of course by bringing all of these reports together we can quickly see how broad the challenge and the opportunity truly is.

Digital upskilling is not just good for business, its good for society, environment, and for the future strength of our SW communities too. A speaker at the launch event of the FutureDotNow report recommended a move to make ESG requirements now include a “D” for Digital, as a further way to ensure all businesses prioritise the part that digital skills can play in progression towards economic, environmental and societal goals.

Cosmic is now developing its own digital skills programmes for the next three years, and we always benefit from input and feedback from businesses across the South West. So please do get in touch for a discussion with Julie or Kate. And also if you want to collaborate on plans and ideas, then let’s speak soon and find new ways and new partnerships to answer the clarion calls of this summer’s reports.


The digital divide is deepening (

curia-report-devon-2023.pdf (

The UK workforce digital skills gap: Why closing it matters and a roadmap for action – FutureDotNow