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British government aims to boost diversity in tech roles with £1 million investment

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez August 28, 2018
A recent BCS report found that only 17% of IT specialists were female and that people with a disability were paid 16% less. The government hopes to get better representation in tech with the launch of a new fund.

Equality diversity women
Diginomica has consistently promoted the message of diversity and inclusion within the digital and tech sectors since launching. Not just because we believe representation to be fair and just, but because we believe that technology that is created by people that accurately reflect society will result in better technology for all.

And this week we welcome the news that the British government has created a new £1 million Digital Skills Innovation Fund that aims to help people from underrepresented groups gain the skills they need to work in digital roles.

Not only this, but an additional £400,000 will be made available to help older and disabled people get new digital skills.

The Digital Skills Innovation Fund will be open for bids from Local Enterprise Partnerships and Combined Authorities for initiatives which specifically aim to help people take up digital roles.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that the funding will be used to help women, disabled people, people from minority backgrounds or those living in lower socioeconomic areas to “succeed in digital roles such as data analysts, programmers, cyber security specialists, software developers and marketeers”.

A recent report by the British Computer Society, which looked to provide an overview of ‘diversity in IT’, found:

  • In 2016, 51% of the UK population aged 16-plus were women, yet only 17% of IT specialists were female
  • 23% of over-16s had a disability, compared to only eight percent of IT workers
  • 45% were aged 50-plus, versus 21% in the IT industry
  • Women earned 15% less respectively than their non-minority counterparts
  • People with a disability were paid 16% less respectively

Minister for Digital Margot James said:

It is crucial everyone is able to take advantage of digital technology, whether it is to learn how to use the internet or develop the skills to work in a tech role.

If we want to maintain our position as a world-leading digital economy we need to work with industry, local authorities and the voluntary sector to develop solutions so no-one is left behind.

The government also recently published an action plan that states how it plans to ensure 50% of all public appointees are female and 14% are from ethnic minorities by 2022, bringing representation in line with the resident population in England and Wales.

The details

As noted above, in addition to the £1 million fund to boost diversity, a new £400,000 Digital Inclusion Fund has also been launched to help older and disabled people acquire digital skills. Projects for this fund are expected to include the teaching of basic skills, such as booking GP appointments online, using apps to communicate with friends and family, and making the most of search engines.

The fund opens in September and DCMS claims that it will support the government’s Digital Strategy to create a “world-leading digital economy that works for everyone”.

Previous initiatives launched by the government include £170,000 funding to support the Tech Talent Charter, which also aims to ensure greater diversity in the tech workforce in the UK, as well as implement recruitment and retention policies that support women in digital roles.

Furthermore, two local Digital Skills Partnership pilots have been created in Lancashire and the Heart of the South West, which bring together businesses, charities, the education sector and public sector organisations sot tackle local digital skills gaps.

Local Enterprise Partnership Network chair and Digital Skills Partnership board member, Christine Gaskell, said:

As the rate of technological change and innovation continues, ‘tech’ is becoming increasingly integrated within every sector and industry. We share the aspiration to ensure that more people have the skills and creativity that will enable them to contribute to, and benefit from, new economic opportunities and deliver more inclusive growth.

There are huge opportunities for regions to benefit and Local Enterprise Partnerships have a vital role to play in helping people and organisations develop the skills they need to realise their potential. Any initiative with the aim to make more people tech savvy and to bring more women and young people into the sector to create new start-ups and unearth the next digital superstars has to be welcomed.

As such, we are working with Government through the Digital Skills Partnership to bring together key partners at national and local level to close the digital skills gap that currently exist.

The Digital Skills Innovation Fund will open on 27th August and bids need to be received by 28th October, with grands of between £200,000 and £500,000 being made available.

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