3 questions with Jacqueline de Rojas, President of techUK and Co-Chair of the Institute of Coding

17th February 2021

The University of the West of England (UWE), in partnership with Business West, runs an annual lecture series that brings top business leaders to Bristol. We caught up with Jacqueline de Rojas, President of techUK and Co-Chair of the Institute of Coding before her virtual address.

1. What is digital exclusion?

What is digital exclusion? It’s really a great question.

If we think about it in the context of today - over 17 million people in the UK workforce do not have the essential digital skills required for work and 22% of people lack the digital skills needed for life. In a world that got more digital in an instant, we need to make sure that we don’t leave anybody behind.

Given that 90% of all jobs will have a digital element to them by 2022, lifelong learning really matters and so I suppose we find ourselves in the COVID-19 crisis, this pandemic that’s provided a nudge for many people to use digital technologies possibly for the first time.

Take financial management for example, since lockdown the volumes of people aged over 40 registering for digital banking has significantly overtaken the number in 2019. Amongst those aged 70-79 the proportion of registrations in the week commencing 22nd April 2020, was three times greater than during the same week the year before.

The silver lining has been that necessity has created greater confidence and a survey that we did at TechUK found that people had become more confident using digital tech since the restrictions on daily life have been in place in the UK.

So, I think it is really important that we recognise that digital exclusion is about working and living online, it’s about those who have technology and do not have technology, and it’s also about those who have the skills and those who do not have the skills.

Our job therefore is to make sure that we recognise that there is this divide and it’s not the same for everybody: that they have great WIFI, great tech or even the skillset to use it.

2. Why is it important for us to combat this issue now?

It’s really important for us to combat digital exclusion, because access and use of information and communication technologies impacts individuals and communities as a whole. And a digitally inclusive community is really important to economic and workforce development, participation as a civic society, education, healthcare and public safety.

As the government moves services online, to self-service channels, we’ve got significant numbers of people who seem unable to move online, who are not computer literate, who may not have the tech, who might miss out on government services and benefits.

People who are digitally excluded are likely to be disproportionately heavy users of government services and nearly half of those seeking tax and tax credits don’t have access to a computer or a device.

And the depth of digital exclusion for people with disabilities is generally much greater than the wider population.

So, we have a big motivation to make sure that we do not increase this divide and that we create a world that works for everybody. 

3.What advice would you have for our students looking to forge a career within one of the many digital spaces?

For me technology can be the great equaliser and technology is, if you think about it, the ultimate portable career.

From application development to computer forensics and cyber security, to web design.

The range of job roles and industries that fall under the technology umbrella is absolutely huge, so whatever your subject of choice make sure there is a STEM element to it because digitisation of the future is something that is upon all of us now and will enable you to walk forward in your next career step.

This series of free public lectures brings top level business leaders to Bristol. You can discuss these events on Twitter using the hashtag #BristolLectures and view further content from Jacqueline de Rojas’s lecture here. For more information please contact events@uwe.ac.uk.

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