I haven’t used the expression the digital divide in a long time. It seems a little quaint and old fashioned now though it still exists. There are still the have nots in the digital world. Let’s face it, the whole world is going digital and having access to the technologies is essential for modern living.
Over the last five years we have done a lot across the North East to resolve the physical access problems. Fixed line broadband is as good as anywhere else in the country and 4G mobile coverage is improving.
But there is another divide that remains much more stubborn and that is the digital skills divide. It is not just me that is concerned with this. I know, because I was part of a large group of people who attended the Digital Skills Summit this week at Sunderland Software City. It was a great conference with lots of good speakers, panel discussions and opportunity to network.
I have always had an issue with the so called skills gap as I don’t think we make enough use of the latent skills within our own people but I’ve covered that before. Putting that aside there is a shortage of people coming into the market
Dom from Geek Talent told us that on the day of the conference there were three thousand three hundred and eighteen digital job vacancies across the region. This is up from the two thousand or so that we have been saying since the start of Dynamo. Those who are half empty will see that the skills shortage is getting worse. Those who are half full will see that the tech industry is burgeoning and demand for talent is growing.
Either way, the number of students coming through the system is not enough. Only three per cent of apprentices in the North East are in ICT. There is a big disconnect between what we have and what is needed.
It is such a problem to resolve as it transcends age groups and social groups. There is a huge opportunity to realise with lots of initiatives started but there is so much more to do. What? I’m not yet sure but at least I know there are lots of people like me who are wanting to get stuck into the problem.