"For our future workforce to be robust and able to tackle different issues we need it to be full of people who bring a diversity of perspectives to the table. Currently, we’re at risk of that not happening by leaving certain groups of people behind."
— JEN SPEIRS, Digital Divide Sponsor – Accenture in Ireland
Working in tomorrow’s world
The research examines the state of the digital divide in Ireland – the gap between the digitally engaged and disengaged – revealing long-standing issues around the ‘haves and have nots’ in an emerging digital society have become more nuanced. All signs point to one direction of travel, towards a more digitally engaged society. What the Accenture Digital Index shows repeatedly is that Millennials and Gen Z, who have grown up with digital technologies, are the most skilled and the transition to a digital society will only accelerate.
People did more online since the pandemic with 68% increasing their internet usage, with video calls, online shopping and social media driving greater engagement. The pandemic has played a part in advancing everyday skills, but a quarter of respondents aren't comfortable creating and editing documents and the same are struggling to update CVs and use websites for job searches. This creates a big challenge for the future workforce.
People are at risk of being left behind
This research shows that people are capable of integrating digital into their daily lives. The caveat is that advances are confined to everyday skills and a smaller appetite for acquiring advanced skills. Around a third of people don’t see a need to improve their digital skills and a quarter of respondents say there is nothing that would motivate them to get better.
A lack of interest in improving skills could be interpreted as apathy or it might be that a large group of people are satisfied that they have all the level of skills needed. This is a problem for industry, education, and government stakeholders looking to upskill people to work in an emerging digital economy. The research shows that a desire to learn more and be part of an emerging digital economy appears to be absent from a large cohort of people and they risk being left behind.
Barriers to digital engagement are coming down but skills gaps persist and the motivation to improve is low which increases the risk of people being left behind.
Supporting Ireland's progress ensuring no one is left behind
of people have problems with using websites for job searches or updating CVs
of people don’t see a need to improve their digital skills
of people say there is nothing that would motivate them to get better
"We have seen during the pandemic how the groups that have fallen outside mainstream education, the elderly, single parents, people on the margins of digital access, are left furthest behind."
— HEYDI FOSTER, Chief Executive Officer – An Cosán
Building bridges and breaking down walls
Pandemic lockdowns have driven adoption, but they have also highlighted inequalities and issues in the development of digital skills. There is now a challenge of engaging people who show little appetite for learning more. So we created an Index scoreboard called PACE to explore digital traction around key behaviours, grouped in four categories; Protect, Access, Connect, Educate.
Scoring reveals a significant gap between the social classes with better-off social groupings more skilled and engaged. This inequality is most pronounced when it comes to Access and least pronounced in relation to Connect. Age is proving to be a consistent barrier for digital inclusion across all categories of our PACE Index and is of particular weakness for those aged 55+. When it comes to skills levels by age those aged 55+ significantly under-performed.
covering security-related behaviours, such as untrustworthy sources, fake news, and fraudulent emails.
covering levels of comfort accessing online resources, such as online banking, job searching and engaging with government services.
covering usage of communication technologies, such as video, text, and messenger services.
covering the search for information and knowledge, and the ability to manage and collate information digitally.
A safer digital future
When it comes to attachment to technology and the internet, 45% are trying to reduce the amount of technology they use each day, with 20% of people actively shutting down after work. One negative issue was low comfort levels in installing applications and changing privacy settings on social media sites. Millennials and Gen Z are driving the transition to a digital society but their confidence may be misplaced with research showing tech-savvy younger people are more susceptible to misinformation than older age groups.
There are many positives in terms of people being comfortable with the move towards a more digital society. A greater demand for more digitally skilled people and an emerging trend in digital jobs, businesses, government and educators need to work together to prepare people for the future. This will require a focus on the cohort who are being left behind to encourage incentivise and upskill them, so we prepare people for the future digital workplace.