Skip to main content
Civil Service

Bridging the digital divide

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A Brilliant Civil Service

Earlier this month, the Civil Service ran a set of events to mark and promote National Get Online Week.

Research shows that 23% of adults have difficulty managing information. Additionally, 11.1 million people in the UK have low digital capability in using services online.

Although National Get Online Week highlighted a need to help the UK population use digital services, it is important that efforts to help people develop basic digital skills are sustained throughout the year.

What we did

Building on the success of last year, when Government Digital Service (GDS) ran a set of lunchtime sessions to help users get online, the Civil Service ran a host of digital capability workshops around the UK. In Whitehall, in the very room where Churchill made his VE day speech, lunchtime sessions were run with the Department for Digital, Culture Media Sport (DCMS) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). These sessions showcased tools and techniques to tackle digital exclusion, in collaboration with Good Things Foundation (GTF).

Training session with group around desks and tables
Participants in an HMRC-organised digital skills support session

As part of HMRC’s participation in Get Online Week, several charities and community organisations around the country organised volunteering opportunities for staff. 

One of the events was a drop-in session organised by Severnside Housing association in their Castlefields Digit@l Den in Shropshire. A participant who was using Universal Jobmatch commented: “Most of the public services I use are online and this is the place I can turn to for help with using them.”

Another session was run by Access to Business in Wolverhampton, who provide IT skills sessions focused on getting people into work or entrepreneurship. The organisation recently won the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

HMRC, like other government departments want to help people get online and be more comfortable ‘doing things digitally’ as an ongoing part of their corporate volunteering.

Every civil servant can make a difference

Offering to help people get online, as well as giving something back to the community, is a great opportunity for civil servants to experience, at first hand, the barriers people face and use that knowledge in their work.

These efforts are part of the Government’s overarching plans to make training in basic digital skills free for adults who need extra help. According to a report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the digital skills gap costs the UK economy £63 billion per year. However, the potential to change is huge.

If just one in four civil servants help a colleague, friend, family member or neighbour to get online, that means more than 100,000 people will be empowered – not only to use government services, but to access all the economic, social, health and wellbeing opportunities and benefits of being online. By working together, we can help bridge this digital divide.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Chi Usanga posted on

    Great that the government is being proactive but the limited information and awareness raising meant that organisations such as SW1CO only 5 minutes from the DCMS office was not aware so could not encourage locals in the area struggling with digital inclusion to take part.
    Please do engage with your local organisation both big and small.

    We have always felt that departments both local and central as well as service sector organisation jumped too quickly on the digital bandwagon without adequate provision to ensure everyone is included.
    We suggest you, use your capacity, online presence to advertise and engage. We look forward to getting information on how those local people can get involved.
    SW1CO is local, run by a trained community organiser who is able to reach the parts that many established organisations cannot reach.
    We would like to be engaged and involved so look forward to hearing from you.

    • Replies to Chi Usanga>

      Comment by Chad Bond posted on

      Hi Chi. Thanks for your comment. The Get Online Week event was an opportunity for civil servants from different government departments to learn about how Good Things Foundation promotes digital inclusion. The organisers' aim was to raise awareness of Get Online Week within Whitehall and encourage more civil servants to volunteer to support the digitally excluded within their communities. We in government want to engage with organisations of all sizes, both national and local, to support digital inclusion. We have therefore established the Digital Skills Partnership which will bring together organisations from across the public, private and charity sectors to tackle this agenda.