Digital inclusion brings economic benefits, study finds

The computer and internet literate are more likely to excel academically and benefit from increased employability and salary prospects, according to a new report by UK online centres.

'Economic Benefits of Digital Inclusion: Building the Evidence' examines the benefits and associated savings of digital inclusion, such as enhanced opportunities, costs cutting and an improved society

The report also revealed the true extent of the digital divide by proclaiming that those with ICT skills can expect wage premiums between three to 10 per cent. It also found that digital learning attributed to a value added equivalent of one quarter of a GCSE.

Meanwhile, the report also revealed that government services such as NHS Direct could make significant savings through mediated interactions. For example, the NHS has developed an online 'Choose and Book' service that allows patients to book a time and place of appointment that is convenient for them.

This new system will lead to a decline in missed hospital appointments by 60 per cent, saving a potential 140 million each year. It is also thought that health information online is likely to save the NHS 80.87 million in 2008.

However, not everyone is enjoying the benefits of digital inclusion. The report found that an estimated 39 per cent of the adult population remain excluded.

In response to the findings, the minister for digital inclusion Paul Murphy appealed for public, private and third sector support to reach out to those who lacked adequate ICT skills.

"Technology and the internet are now woven into the fabric of our society. However, we cannot ignore the fact that those who are socially excluded are much less likely to have access to and to benefit from technology," he said.

"Action is needed to stop digital technologies becoming a divider in our country and instead to make them a great and powerful equaliser," Murphy said.

The government recently established a Cabinet committee to focus on digital exclusion. The committee, who met for the first time last week, will look to co-ordinate policies and develop strategies to ensure all citizens benefit from digital technologies.