Covid restrictions expose and widen potentially costly digital skills divide

New survey reveals that the digital skills gap could significantly damage Ireland's economic growth 
Covid restrictions expose and widen potentially costly digital skills divide
The gap between those with the confidence and skill to adapt to the digital economy and those without is widening due to the Covid-19 crisis, a survey has warned.

The restrictions on everyday life brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak have exposed and widened the digital skills gap amongst the Irish population, according to a survey, to a level that could significantly damage economic growth.

The report, by consulting firm Accenture, said that as long as the pandemic remains, this digital divide – between those able and unable to adapt to things like online working, banking and shopping – is likely to widen further.

A big general concern is that a wide digital skills and knowledge gap could cost the Irish economy hundreds of millions of euro across everything from lost retail sales to reduced multinational investment due to a deterioration in the skilled workforce.

A previous report by Accenture – focusing on the G20 economies – suggested that the world’s leading 20 economies could lose up to $11.5 trillion (€10tn) in cumulative GDP growth in this decade if digital skill levels amongst their populations don’t catch up with the rate of technological progress being made.

Findings from the latest Accenture report included a quarter of Irish people feeling excluded from the digital society and 42% rating their digital skills as average at best.

Of the respondents 20% said they don’t use online banking and feel uneasy carrying out online financial transactions, while almost 50% said they’re not confident completing basic online administrative tasks such as creating and editing documents.

Head of Accenture Ireland Alastair Blair said more education and training is needed to bridge the digital divide and help support Ireland’s economic recovery.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said digital has to be made “an equaliser, rather than an inhibitor”.

"If we don’t improve, social exclusion and class divides will harden as more activity moves online," he warned.

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