We talk to BT’s Group Director of Digital Impact about the company’s ambitious new initiative to equip millions of Brits with digital skills
It has been clear for a number of years that those who lack the skills to navigate our digital world will either fall behind, fail to reach their potential or fall victim to online harms. As banks become more digitised, citizens will soon not be able to distribute money to their loved ones unless they are computer or app-literate. Tomorrow’s great business ideas will not blossom unless their architects can establish an online footprint. And smartphone-gazing children risk encountering a raft of dangerous content and individuals.
To help UK citizens develop the confidence and skills to flourish digitally at home and at work, BT has launched a completely free programme called BT Skills for Tomorrow. Its goal is to equip 10 million Brits, from school children, teachers and parents, to jobseekers, the elderly and most vulnerable, with the tools and knowledge they need. Ahead of her session at Cloud Expo Europe, Professor Kerensa Jennings, BT’s Group Director of Digital Impact, sat down to explain her role in the project and how BT plans to achieve its ambitious objective.
Kerensa says the programme is less about trying to foster the digital skills necessary to succeed in the world, and more about encouraging “the skills you need to thrive in the digital world”. This includes increasing confidence and demonstrating how digital tools like Whatsapp, Skype and Messenger can actually enhance human belonging by facilitating stronger connections. It’s also about safety and security:
“Getting to grips with the challenges and opportunities of the digital world includes learning how to protect your data, your home, your family and your business and discovering tips and tricks that save you time, energy and money,” she says. “This can range from researching holidays and where to eat, to claiming benefits, to booking health appointments, to accessing online tutorials.”
Kerensa’s credentials speak for themselves. The best-selling author and professor was previously a TV producer and the BBC’s Head of Strategic Delivery, where her work on the BBC’s Make it Digital strategy earned her the Innovation Enterprise Chief Strategy Officer’s Best Innovation Award. She said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity of “helping 10 million people make the most of life” and that BT had the “power and magic” to deliver. “It is a trusted heritage brand and it is part of the lifeblood of our country,” she says. “The people here care about making a difference to society.”
There are countless programmes – local, regional, and national – dedicated to elevating the nation’s digital skills. If anything, BT is a little late to the party. But Kerensa explains that the company saw the need for a more holistic and comprehensive strategy: