Government launches digital strategy to get children coding

Culture secretary Karen Bradley has announced the Government’s digital strategy, which looks to improve the UK public’s digital skills and teach more school children how to code.

The UK Government has revealed its digital strategy, which looks to train more people in digital skills and enable more children to learn how to code.

The strategy was delivered in a speech given by Culture secretary Karen Bradley, and includes partnerships with companies such as Google and Lloyds Banking Group.

Digital skills training for adults and children

This includes Lloyds offering face-to-face digital skills training to 2.5 million individuals, small and medium businesses (SMEs) and charities by 2020, and a scheme by Barclays teaching basic coding skills to 45,000 children in 2017.

Other schemes include a summer programme by Google, which will offer digital skills training for people living in coastal and seaside towns, and a free learning website from HP Foundation, which aims to improve business, IT and digital skills for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Bradley added that the strategy would also aim to encourage a “more diverse” digital workforce, citing that only 17% of people working in tech are female. Schemes include the SheMeansBusiness Partnership, which delivers training to 10,000 women across the UK, and the Tech Talent Charter, which works with organisations to create more diverse workplaces.

Focus on accessibility to faster internet

Alongside focusing on digital skills, the strategy also places emphasis on providing better access to fast, reliable internet, with £1 million pledged towards developing 5G broadband, announced in chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement last year.

The Government also aims to retain partnerships with businesses abroad following Brexit, through the creation of five international tech hubs set up in partner countries which will work with UK companies on research, development and skills.

The Digital Strategy follows the Government’s industrial strategy, which was announced by prime minister Theresa May in January, and which focuses on developing training in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

Bradley said: “There should be no digital divide – every individual and every business should have the skills and confidence to make the most of digital technology and have easy access to high-quality internet wherever they live, work, travel or learn.”

What does the design industry think?

Like May’s industrial strategy, the digital strategy focuses on tech skills as opposed to creative skills. Creative Industries Federation chief executive John Kampfner says that while superfast broadband and improving digital skills will help the creative sector, the Government has neglected to recognise the role creativity can play in encouraging economic growth.

“The role of creativity in innovation is frequently overlooked,” he says. “A focus on tech and science as the drivers of this risks opportunities being missed. Designers are major innovators and are playing an important role in many of the advances that are being made.”

Dr Julie Nugent, chief executive of the Design and Technology (D&T) Association, adds that the Government needs to broaden its scope of “digital skills” to mean more than “computing”, adding that skills such as computer aided design (CAD), computer numerical controlling, 3D printing and laser-cutting would help children understand how robotics and artificial intelligence work.

“While coding is important, so too is the need to understand the digital technologies that are revolutionising the modern workforce,” she says.

“The digital strategy needs to recognise this and build links across design and technology and wider STEM subjects to develop the skills and aptitudes that employers will need,” she adds.

Read the Government’s full digital strategy here.

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