Neglecting digital natives risks UK’s economic future, warns Nesta
A landmark study published today by Nesta points to a new digital divide: showing that for every child learning to make things using digital technology, over 60 are being left behind.
- Landmark study of children’s interaction with digital technology shows scattergun approach at home, in school and in clubs
- Stark warning for UK economy with next generation lacking skills for a digital economy
A landmark study published today by Nesta points to a new digital divide: showing that for every child learning to make things using digital technology, over 60 are being left behind1. Young Digital Makers, the first study of its kind, maps interest, opportunities and support in the UK – both in and out of school – for young people to learn how to use digital technologies to make their own apps, games, websites as well as editing music, videos, images and more.
Today’s report finds that while over 8 million2 children are eager to get to grips with making things with digital technology, there were just 130,800 face-to-face opportunities available for them to learn outside of the classroom in the last year. The school’s role is important in developing these skills and interests, but this needs to be supplemented by out-of-school activities at home and in clubs: providing the space, encouragement and resources for the next generation to experiment and create using digital tools.
With demand greatly outstripping supply, innovation charity Nesta warns that the UK is neglecting its digital needs and the skills the economy will need in the future.
Nesta argues that the UK is at risk of the next generation growing up as passive digital consumers rather than confident creators and makers of digital products. The report found that while many young people report dabbling in tech - 83 per cent have made something online – a third (33 per cent) do so less than once a week and almost a fifth (17 per cent) have never done so.
In 2011, creative industry leaders Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope cautioned in Nesta’s breakthrough report Next Gen that without serious investment in the digital skills of young people, the UK’s high-growth creative industries would be in jeopardy.
In the four years since the publication of Next Gen, inroads have been made: the new computing curriculum in English schools in 2014, and a groundswell of local digital activities for children throughout the UK – from volunteer-led local coding clubs to the Scouts’ new Digital Maker badge.
Today’s report shows that while there has been progress, the UK is still falling short. In February this year, the Lords Digital Skills committee warned that it was ‘make or break time’3 for the UK and called for more action to address the digital skills shortage. The fastest growing industries in the UK are reliant on digital skills; the UK's creative economy accounts for 2.6 million jobs - roles that require the ability to creatively manipulate technology - and is growing over three times faster than the workforce as a whole4.
Sylvia Lowe, Digital Education Director at Nesta, said: “We increasingly live and work in a digital world, yet the gap between young people’s interest in digital technologies and their skills to exploit them is still vast. We’ve got to convert the curiosity of today’s children in how our digital world works into a workforce ready and able to support the digital economy – whether they are at the forefront of the gaming world or trying to tackle social challenges with the power of digital.”
While the digital making movement has had a strong start, there is a clear need for increased action to meet this demand. This will require new organisations offering a wider variety of digital making opportunities, more volunteers to run activities with young people, and more help for parents, teachers and young people to navigate the opportunities available.
Notes to editors
For any media enquiries or to receive an embargoed copy of the report please contact Natalie Hodgson on 020 7438 2614 / [email protected]
- 1Calculated by dividing the number of children and young people interested in digital making (82 per cent of a representative sample surveyed – the equivalent of 8 million school age children and young people in the UK) by the number of digital making club opportunities available in the last year.
- 28 out of 10 children (82 per cent of those surveyed), the equivalent of 8 million school age children and young people in the UK, say they are interested in digital making.
- 4 A Manifesto for the Creative Economy, Nesta, April 2013 http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/manifesto-creative-economy
- Research methodology: As part of the report Nesta commissioned ‘TNS Global’ to conduct a regionally representative ‘online omnibus’ survey of children and parents across the UK. 1005 UK adults aged 16-64 and 1005 children aged 8-18 responded to the survey between 2nd and 9th January 2015. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all children/parents.