The UK’s Tinder Foundation, “a not-for-profit social enterprise that makes good things happen with digital technology, established in December 2011,” recently released a report, “A Leading Digital Nation by 2020: Calculating the cost of delivering online skills for all,” that looked at “the investment needed to get everyone in the UK using the internet regularly with Basic Online Skills.” And it turns out that the outlay required to upskill the UK’s “11 million people still left without the basics needed to use the web in the 21st century” is comparatively minimal: £875 million ($1.45 billion) to be exact. And, as the report’s executive summary continues, “we do not believe the Government should shoulder the full responsibility, but we suggest it might be split equally between the Government; the private sector, and the voluntary and community sector. The investment required to ensure a nation with 100% Basic Online Skills will be £292 million [$485.6 million] for each sector.”
And if these sorts of numbers still sound intimidating, look at the savings and benefits from that investment. As Jim Knight, Lord Knight of Weymouth and Chair of the Tinder Foundation, declares in the foreword to the report, “we know that just getting people to transact with government online could save some £1.7 billion [$2.83 billion] a year … being a leading digital nation in the global economy would realise some £63 billion [$104.8 billion] worth of benefit.”
The Basic Online Skills, as defined by Go ON UK, the Tinder Foundation’s partner in the report, are things as simple as sending and receiving emails, using search engines to browse the internet, and identifying spam. The report contrasts the UK’s situation with countries such as Norway, that have digital participation rates up at around 98 percent. The figures for the cost of intervention are based on current UK internet centers and other operating programs.
Even a diehard skeptic, or a fanatical opponent of all things social enterprise, should be able to see that the Tinder Foundation could be out by a factor of ten in their predictions and still have a point. And the Tinder Foundation’s benefactors include the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Work and Pensions, so it clearly has the backing of the UK’s official business skills lobby, so it’s no fringe group. This sounds like one of the most worthwhile, productive, and universally beneficial investments that a nation could possibly make.