Software Development: IJYI
The English version of Wikipedia has over six million articles and is 90 times the size of the 120-volume Britannica Encyclopaedia. Breaking news is delivered in seconds, and we’re able to book a taxi to arrive in minutes.
The Internet has 4.66 billion users worldwide. That’s 4.66 billion people who can connect, interact, and influence each other, all with near-instant access to information, communication tools and services. Those tools and services were relied upon heavily during the COVID-19 pandemic for families and businesses to stay connected. For example, people who may have not been familiar with Teams or Zoom suddenly found these essential parts of everyday life. The number of users on Microsoft Teams went from 10 million daily meeting participants in December 2019 to 200 million in March 2020. Even doctor’s appointments were performed over Zoom, and many still are. Shopping habits moved online, which was easier and safer, with goods being delivered to our doors.
Yet it’s been estimated that 7.8% of UK adults have either never used the Internet, or last used it over three months ago (ONS, 2020). That’s 4.2 million people. The term used to refer to people’s ability to get online is Digital Inclusion, and it’s not just about having access to a device and an Internet connection – it’s looking at the essential digital skills needed to perform basic tasks online, the ability for small business owners to market their business effectively, and the design of services to ensure that they can be used by everyone and not just tech-savvy teenagers.
A digital skills crisis
During the lockdown, many organisations expected employees to learn new tools and “get on with it”.
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee acknowledged the problem back in 2014 in its Digital Skills Crisis report and said that the digital skills gap is costing the UK economy £63 billion a year in the lost potential for additional GDP.
Clearly, there’s more that’s needed. At IJYI, we do several things to close the gap. Much of it focuses on increasing digital skills for all. We take on work experience students to see what it’s like to work for a software delivery company, and we give them insight into how we take a business idea and turn it into working software. Hopefully, we give them some enthusiasm for a career in digital.
We’ve also run “Coder Dojos” for young people with Suffolk Libraries, where our staff teach them how to write basic code on cheap, accessible devices such as Raspberry Pis.
With technology continuing to develop fast and many companies and their services relying on that technology, it’s incredibly important that we both improve access to devices and the skills necessary to make the most of the connectivity we have available.