By Jonathan Davies, Fresh Business Thinking

Digital skills have become a political priority of the UK government and the opposition. On 13th May, politicians lined up to hear Baroness Martha Lane Fox deliver her first speech in the House of Lords about the importance of digital skills.

Big Lottery Fund (BIG) has invested £15m to aid digital skills charity, Go ON UK, in its bid to make the UK the world’s most digitally skilled nation. BIG has pledged to fund a number of small UK projects and businesses will be able to apply for funding this autumn. Prime Minister, David Cameron, also called for businesses to support and join the mission. Shadow media minister, Helen Goodman, announced that Labour would invest £75m into improving digital skills if re-elected. The Government and opposition have recognised the importance of digital skills.

Baroness Lane Fox said that sixteen million people lack the basic digital skills needed to use the tools available to them. And according to the latest ONS Internet Access figures, 7.1 million UK adults have never used the internet or even a computer, down 326,000 since the last quarter.

But why should businesses join the mission to make the UK the world’s most digitally skilled nation? Business is becoming increasingly dependent on technology. And yet small and medium businesses are being held back by their lack of digital skills. According to a report by Booz & Company, 25% of business owners say their employees lack the basic skills needed to use the internet for business. Only 34% of business owners say their employees are ‘digitally savvy’. But we live in a world where it is expected that 90% of UK jobs will require ICT skills by 2015.

Only one third of businesses have an online presence and just 14% sell a product or service online. But more than 15 million hours is spent shopping online around the world every month. The UK are leaders in how much money is spent online. They spend more money online per head per year than any other country. Baroness Lane Fox believes usage of the internet should be a basic right for everyone to enjoy and if Go ON UK is successful, UK businesses could see a real benefit.

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