As we celebrate 25 years of the World Wide Web, the Web for Everyone coalition wants to give thousands of people the power to learn new digital skills. The aim of the partnership is to address 'internet inequality' by encouraging people from all walks of life, young and old, to not only use the Web but create it.
Tim Berners-Lee created the Web 'for everyone'. It's great that 73% of UK adults use it every day but it is being created by only a small minority. This is worrying when the UK needs more than three quarters of a million skilled digital workers by 2017 to support the growing digital economy and when 1 million young people are unemployed.
The extended breakfast saw each group in the campaign showcase their ideas on how we can tackle internet inequality and get everyone involved in making the Web from- blogging, content creation, digital marketing, remixing music and coding your own websites and apps. We heard from Free:Formers, Barclays Digital Eagles, Facebook, Make Things Do Stuff, The Prince's Trust and start-up business people who now understand the power of knowing how to make their own websites.
The campaign has very much blended Tim Berners-Lee's "this is for everyone" philosophy with the Free:Formers business model, through which it trains young people to deliver digital training to businesses in a one-for-one method. "We don't want a society where 99 percent use the web and one percent create it. We want a society where everyone is properly involved and the web is actually everyone," explains Free:Formers CEO Gi Fernando.
Also speaking at the event were Make Things Do Stuff, a campaign and website designed to mobilise the next generation of digital makers by giving them the tools and support to make and share digital things. "The world is becoming increasingly digitised and filled with products that change the way we connect and interact with each other. It is more important than ever to help people use this technology creatively and harness the power of the web for their own means" says the project manager of MTDS James Tattersfield.
The parliamentary breakfast continued to discuss the theme of how we can help people make the shift from consuming technology to making it themselves in Britain. Products and services delivered online now account for at least 10% of UK GDP which is the highest proportion of all G20 countries. The British are the most advanced online shoppers on the planet; in 2014 e-commerce will account for about 20% of total UK retail. Due to our location and language, the UK is a vital part of the global internet sector yet we are currently unable to make decisions about our technology-led future due to an inability to procure the skills and understanding of the digital world at the top of our corporate sphere. Currently only four FTSE 100 businesses have a digital executive on their PLC boards whilst the UK internet sector is bigger than the health, education or construction sectors that Britain has created.
In a recent debate in the House of Lords Baroness Lane-Fox commented on the surprising, and frustrating, fact that only one of the top ten most visited websites in the country is local - the BBC. So although we start as many digital businesses as anywhere in the world, we don't scale them to compete with the biggest global companies.
If we want to prepare young people for the competitive job market we have to recognise, both at home and in the curriculum, that 90% of new jobs require online skills and many vacancies are only advertised online. Britain needs to fill 1million technology sector jobs by 2020 which requires some serious change in our current workforce and how we educate young people about the world of work. There are masses of young people in the UK, particularly between the ages of 16 and 25, that already possess the digital skills that businesses need to drive growth, we just need to make them look at their skills from a business perspective.
One charity that was represented at the event was Go On UK which recognises that there are currently 11 million adults who lack basic online skills: the ability to communicate, search and share information safely. The cross sector charity estimates that there is £68bn of value to the economy in addressing the lack of these skills.
Bringing these organisations together for the event brought the campaign alive and was a fitting tribute to Tim's vision that the web should be for everyone.
Support the campaign by using the hashtag #webforeveryone and follow them here: https://twitter.com/web_foreveryone