DCMS commits £1.4m to boost diversity in the tech industry

A group of students from a wide range of backgrounds taking up digital skills

The government wants more diversity in the tech industry, so it's offering businesses more than 1 million in funding to help train women, minorities, disabled people and elderly to better use IT.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) package includes 1 million for a Digital Skills Innovation Fund to support women, minorities, disabled people and those from lower socioeconomic areas to access tech training to gain employment in fields such as programming, data analysis and cyber security.

A further 400,000 Digital Inclusion Fund will be set up to help teach older and disabled people to better use technology in their lives. That fund is expected to encourage projects that teach disabled students and elderly people skills such as booking GP appointments online, using apps to communicate with friends and family, and how to use search engines more effectively.

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and Combined Authorities for Initiatives can apply from September for between 200,000 and 500,000 to fund such schemes.

"As the rate of technological change and innovation continues, 'tech' is becoming increasingly integrated within every sector and industry," said LEP Network chair Christine Gaskell.

"We share the aspiration to ensure that more people have the skills and creativity that will enable them to contribute to, and benefit from, new economic opportunities and deliver more inclusive growth," she said. "Any initiative with the aim to make more people tech savvy and to bring more women and young people into the sector to create new start-ups and unearth the next digital superstars has to be welcomed."

In launching the two funding streams, the government also wants to encourage collaboration between LEPs, councils, non-profits and employers to address local skills challenges and share ideas.

"It is crucial everyone is able to take advantage of digital technology, whether it is to learn how to use the internet or develop the skills to work in a tech role," said minister for digital Margot James. "If we want to maintain our position as a world-leading digital economy we need to work with industry, local authorities and the voluntary sector to develop solutions so no-one is left behind."

The government says its latest initiatives will support the work it has already done to boost digital skills across the country, which includes funding for the Tech Talent Charter.

This nationwide effort to boost female participation in the tech industry has received 170,000 to date from central government in several installments since it was first proposed in 2015. DCMS committed 97,000 in a second round of funding earlier this year to support the initiative growing from 200 signatories to 500, and ensure the programme is fully coordinated across the country.

The government's Digital Skills Partnership, meanwhile, was established in November last year to bring together public and private sector organisations, together with charities, to boost tech literacy and digital skills across the UK. DCMS says this has led to 2.5 million free training opportunities being delivered to date.

Organisations are invited to apply for funding as part of the Digital Skills Innovation Fund between now and 28 October, while the Digital Inclusion Fund will launch in September.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.