Building digital inclusion through partnership — it’s time for the private sector to step up

Building digital confidence through partnership


Jo Bertram

Jo Bertram

Managing Director

Virgin Media O2 Business


4 minutes

18th October 2022

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‘Getting online’ is fundamental to everyday life in today’s increasingly digital world. It means anything and everything from connecting with loved ones, applying for a job, booking a doctor’s appointment, or buying a train ticket.


And digital confidence is now crucial in allowing people to fully-participate in our ever more connected society – so much so that recent data from the Digital Poverty Alliance found that a massive 82% of jobs in the UK now require digital skills.


So, why then are so many people still locked out and unable to participate? Only 51% of households earning between £6-10,000 a year have home internet access, and 21% of the population do not have basic digital skills to use the internet effectively. With the rising cost of living and a potential recession looming, the risk of the UK’s digital divide growing deeper is very real.


Collectively, we cannot allow this to happen. Recent Cebr economic modelling for Virgin Media O2 shows lack of digital skills are costing UK workers £5.69 billion and the economy £12.8 billion*.


This is not a challenge that the public sector should be expected to face alone. It’s on all of us to drive meaningful change. At Virgin Media O2 Business, we believe connectivity and the confidence to use it are as essential as any other utility. Which is why we’ve committed to playing our part in tackling digital exclusion in the UK.

Private or public sector, it’s on all of us

No one organisation has the answer to digital inclusion. Exclusion spans the UK and tackling it will require a collaborative solution on a much larger scale – a call to arms which local authorities and private enterprises alike must answer.


For private sector businesses, the challenging economic picture means getting involved in ESG activities will be a balancing act. Balancing business priorities with recognising the importance of investing back into the communities in which you work and the importance of building ESG into people policies to attract and retain talent


For public sector organisations, it will mean taking advantage of private sector partnerships. These organisations will already be seeing and experiencing the impact of digital exclusion first-hand in all areas of public services – and as such, will recognise the value to be had in gaining as much support as possible in helping to tackle it.


Only by bringing together public and private sector expertise can we reduce the digital divide and provide people with the digital confidence they need to thrive in today’s society. It’s time we all did more to support the digitally disadvantaged. And at Virgin Media O2 Business, we’re ready to have the conversation starting with our Connect More Programme.

Introducing the Connect More Programme

Today’s customers and employees expect more of businesses and are challenging them to use their networks and resources to create lasting positive impacts among local communities. Using our nationwide footprint and our relationships with many local authorities, our Connect More Programme is delivered by Virgin Media O2 Business volunteers who help with digital skills training at local authority drop-in sessions.


All our Virgin Media O2 Business team members are encouraged to use their Take Five volunteering days to get involved with our Connect More Programme, and have access to a wealth of training content, advice and support from Digital Unite, with the goal being to give participants greater digital confidence and share this confidence with their own friends and family.


Following a successful pilot with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), in which every single volunteer reported they would want to do it again, we will now be rolling out Connect More to help tackle digital inclusion nationwide.

The balancing act facing businesses

Given the undeniable link between digital inclusion and the economy, UK businesses cannot afford to allow ESG commitments fall down the priority list. From a macro perspective, it’s clear from the data points above that we all need to play our role, but it should also be noted that implementation of ESG-led initiatives within our own organisations can have a hugely positive impact on employee engagement, productivity, retention and indeed attracting new talent.


In the coming weeks, we’ll also be exploring this balancing act around how businesses can achieve their ESG goals in today’s economic climate in a new content series.


In the meantime, to learn more about our Connect More Programme, visit our landing page.

*Research based on economic analysis from Cebr who constructed a Digital Skills Index from an online survey run by 3Gem of 3,000 participants across the UK around people’s digital skills.