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Employer webinar: How skills can unlock an inclusive digital future

The panel having discussion on the importance of Digital Inclusion in the workforce.

The Open University (OU) gathered together some of the UK’s leading voices in digital inclusion to discuss how organisations can equip themselves with the skills and mindset needed to succeed.

The webinar was hosted by AI entrepreneur, Priya Lakhani OBE, founder and CEO of CENTURY Tech.

The panel was as follows:

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What is digital inclusion?

The discussion began with the panel outlining their own definitions of digital inclusion, with Robin making the important point that digital inclusion was for everyone, not just for those with disabilities.

“Digital accessibility will benefit every single user, every single day.”

Robin Christopherson MBE, Head of Digital Inclusion, AbilityNet

The OU’s Jane Dickinson cited a report from The Good Things Foundations which estimated a ten-fold return on investment for the economy if digital inclusion challenges were addressed.

Embarking on the journey

The webinar then explored the mindset that organisations need to adopt, with Priya explaining the need to see it as a journey, and not a single project. Michael outlined the decades-long journey that Microsoft have taken to rise to digital inclusion challenges.

When Microsoft started focusing on the journey of digital inclusion, we found more people in our organisation started to comment on what we could do better. And when we listened to them, and they realised that we were listening to them, they came back and helped us to create even better products and services.

Michael Vermeersch
Accessibility Go To Market Manager, Microsoft UK

It was recommended that progress is measured through a maturity model to track what is being achieved internally.

Robin outlined the scale of the challenge for organisations by sharing a fascinating summary of a recent AbilityNet report, which looked at how organisations were tackling this challenge and the disconnect often seen between the perception of leaders and what is happening on the ground. There was also a fascinating discussion around the need to proactively hire diverse teams in which the lived the experience of different team members can be leveraged to deliver more inclusive solutions.

Having a team with lived experience can be great for your business. You’ll have better informed products, messaging and brand value. Which ultimately will help you gain trust with your customers.

Robin Christopherson MBE
Head of Digital Inclusion, AbilityNet

Utilising skills to deliver success

An example of best practice was shared through Professor Oliver Pearce of Milton Keynes University Hospital. The Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon is also a Visiting Professor at the OU collaborated with academics at the university to deliver the Painpad, an inclusive-by-design device that is used by various demographics of patients to record pain. Oliver explained the benefits of the device and how accessible design had delivered enhanced data collection to aid his medical practice.

The webinar concluded with a discussion between Priya and Jane around how the key barrier of digital skills can be addressed in light of the well-documented digital skills gap. Jane explained that by investing in lifelong learning, these gaps can be closed.

“Lifelong learning for digital skills is a fundamental part of what the OU offers. Our OpenLearn platform has thousands of training courses available for free, and we also deliver everything from short courses to degrees and apprenticeships, so people can access the digital knowledge, skills and behaviours they need.”

Jane Dickinson, Digital Skills Lead, The Open University

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Jane Dickinson - Digital Skills Lead

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