Developing essential digital skills

Digital skills are increasingly important for day-to-day life, including for communication, accessing services and employment. However, around a fifth of the population do not have essential digital skills for life as defined by the UK Government. While research suggests the number of people with basic digital skills has increased in recent years, concerns remain about those who lack them. Experts have highlighted that digitally excluded people may experience various negative impacts, including poorer health outcomes and social isolation This POSTnote gives an overview of digital skills in the UK, the impact of a lack of digital skills on outcomes in areas such as employment and health, and initiatives in place to improve digital skills.

Developing essential digital skills
  • Rapid response

    COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

    There have been large volumes of inaccurate information about COVID-19 circulating since the beginning of the pandemic, including misinformation about vaccinations against the infection. This article looks at the types and sources of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and its public health impact. It also looks at the different approaches being used to fight COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, such as social media content moderation and guidance for the public.

  • POSTnote

    AI and healthcare

    There are various applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare, such as helping clinicians to make decisions, monitoring patient health, and automating routine administrative tasks. This POSTnote gives an overview of these uses, and their potential impacts on the cost and quality of healthcare, and on the workforce. It summarises the challenges to wider adoption of AI in healthcare, including those relating to safety, privacy, data-sharing, trust, accountability and health inequalities. It also outlines some of the regulations relevant to AI, and how these may change. As healthcare is a devolved issue, policies on healthcare AI differ across the UK. This POSTnote focusses on regulations and policies relevant to England.

  • Rapid response

    COVID-19 and the digital divide

    The digital divide is the gap between people in society who have full access to digital technologies (such as the internet and computers) and those who do not. Concerns about the digital divide have been particularly acute during the COVID-19 pandemic as the internet and digital devices have played an important role in allowing people to access services, attend medical appointments and stay in touch with friends and family. What impact has the digital divide had on children and adults in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic and what has been done to tackle it?

  • Rapid response

    Technology and domestic abuse

    The use of technology to perpetrate domestic abuse, referred to as tech abuse, has become increasingly common. Domestic abuse charity Refuge reported that in 2019, 72% of women accessing its services said that they had been subjected to technology-facilitated abuse. Common devices such as smartphones and tablets can be misused to stalk, harass, impersonate and threaten victims. Some groups have raised concerns that the growing use of internet-connected home devices (such as smart speakers) may provide perpetrators with a wider and more sophisticated range of tools to harm victims. How is technology being used to perpetrate domestic abuse, how can this be prevented and what role can technology play in supporting victims?

  • POSTnote

    Interpretable machine learning

    Machine learning (ML, a type of artificial intelligence) is increasingly being used to support decision making in a variety of applications including recruitment and clinical diagnoses. While ML has many advantages, there are concerns that in some cases it may not be possible to explain completely how its outputs have been produced. This POSTnote gives an overview of ML and its role in decision-making. It examines the challenges of understanding how a complex ML system has reached its output, and some of the technical approaches to making ML easier to interpret. It also gives a brief overview of some of the proposed tools for making ML systems more accountable.

  • Rapid response

    COVID-19 misinformation

    According to a recent study from Ofcom, 46% of respondents have encountered false or misleading coronavirus information since the lockdown. Most cases of misinformation are found on social media. Misinformation can lead to public mistrust, endangerment of public health, as well as hate crime and exploitation. Different approaches are being implemented to fight misinformation including content moderation, myth-busting, and a focus on education.

  • POSTnote

    Infrastructure and climate change

    Key infrastructure areas such as transport, energy, water and telecoms are vital to society and the economy. Evidence suggests that climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, posing a risk to infrastructure systems. This POSTnote looks at the main climate-related risks to the UK’s economic infrastructure, measures to reduce these risks and the main challenges to implementing resilience measures.

  • POSTnote

    Online safety education

    Online technologies are an integral part of many children’s lives. In 2017, the Children’s Commissioner for England identified shortcomings in online safety education and a number of stakeholders have called for action to increase ‘digital literacy’ in the UK. Upcoming changes to the curriculum mean that aspects of online safety will be taught in all schools from 2020. This POSTnote gives an overview of how children use the internet and the opportunities and risks it presents. It provides an overview of current online safety teaching in schools and elsewhere and how this will be affected by changes in the curriculum. It also looks at the role of content filtering and age verification technologies to improve online safety.

  • POSTbrief

    Research for Parliament: Preparing for a changing world

    This document builds on POST's previous publication, Topics of Interest 2018 (POSTbrief 27). The subjects are listed under under six category headings based on the drivers of change identified in POSTnote 500: demographic change and healthcare; social and cultural trends; geopolitical and governance challenges; environmental pressures and climate change; resource security and sustainability; and technological advance.

  • POSTbrief

    5G technology

    5G is the next generation of mobile communications technology. It follows on from the previous generations of mobile technology, such as 3G and 4G. 5G is expected to improve on previous mobile technologies by providing faster, lower latency (response time) mobile broadband connections and being able to connect a greater number of devices to a mobile network in a particular area while maintaining good quality connections. 5G mobile broadband will be the first widespread application of the technology. However, in the longer term it may have applications in other sectors.

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