Report on digital inclusion in Wales

04 August 2009

The Wales Office and the Welsh Assembly Government must ensure UK digital inclusion initiatives meet Welsh needs and build on existing good work to deliver on Welsh digital ambitions, says the Welsh Affairs Committee in a report published today

The report, which examines the use of digital technologies in Wales, highlights the urgent need for the eradication of broadband ‘notspots’ - areas with limited or no access to high speed internet connections - and says this issue must continue to receive priority attention.

There should be more support to help a wider range of people use technology effectively. Employers told the Committee they need staff with better IT skills and more training opportunities. The Committee recommends the Welsh Assembly Government explicitly includes this issue in its digital inclusion strategy.

The digital inclusion agenda is a complex mix of reserved and devolved matters. This brings a risk that key issues can be overlooked, for example no account has been taken of Welsh language speakers’ needs in the Government’s Digital Inclusion Action Plan.

The Secretary of State for Wales must ensure that bodies in Wales across all sectors are fully engaged with initiatives and that the next stage of Digital Britain adequately reflects Welsh needs. Higher education institutions also have a vital role to play and should be involved in any new research opportunities.

The Welsh Assembly already has successful digital inclusion projects in Wales and it should find a way to become fully involved with the UK digital inclusion and Digital Britain work so it does not miss out on policy developments and funding opportunities.

The Committee also recommends the creation of a one-stop shop providing advice on the risks for young people using technology, and commends the Assembly’s work tackling internet related crimes which it says should be promoted as part of the economic development strategy in Wales.

The Chairman of the Committee, Dr Hywel Francis MP, said:

"Wales does not have significantly greater or lesser challenges to face than other nations in tackling the digital inclusion agenda. But it does have particular needs, for example in relation to the Welsh language, and it is essential that proper consideration and planning are given to these specific requirements.

"There is already much excellent practice and the Government’s Digital Britain Final Report and Digital Inclusion Action Plan are all welcome steps. What is now required is a greater focus on the needs of people in Wales and a coherent, purposeful plan for a ‘digital Wales in a digital Britain’."

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