A House of Lords Select Committee hit out at the UK government for not placing enough attention to the country’s deepening digital divide despite its ambition to become a technology superpower and boost economic growth through the sector.
A new report published by The Communications and Digital Committee highlighted the fact that 1 million people had gone offline or cut back their internet packages in the past year due to affordability issues. Concerns were also raised about the “rapid shift” towards digital services which risks the unconnected falling further behind.
The report’s release comes after the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlined an ambition for the UK to become the centre for AI governance.
Despite such lofty ambitions, the government does not have a “credible plan to tackle digital inclusion”, and the scale of the problem is “a direct consequence of political lethargy”, added the report.
Digitally excluded groups are also often poorly represented in datasets and are more likely to face marginalisation as employment and public services are increasingly deploying machine learning systems, the committee said.
Other concerning statistics include the fact 7 million households have no broadband or mobile data as of today, which factors in low levels of digital skills in the UK.
Chair of the Committee Tina Stowell said the government has bold ambitions but “can’t deliver an exciting digital future when 5 million workers are under-skilled in digital and nearly two and a half million people still can’t complete a single basic digital task”.
To address this, the committee urged for a new digital inclusion strategy to be put in place, as the last scheme was issued nearly ten years ago.