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Major research partnership seeks to find and address the barriers holding people back from gaining digital skills

Catch22, Nominet and Livity have partnered on a year-long research project to gain deeper insights into the barriers to digital skills and access for some of the most disadvantaged groups in the UK.

04 June 2021

The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the extent of the digital divide in Britain; 1.5 million households are without access to the internet and 22% of the UK population lack basic digital skills.  Current ONS statistics for the first quarter of the year show that long-term unemployment is rising at its fastest since 2010, and for young people it’s at its highest in 5 years.  When you combine this with statistics suggesting that 17.3 million people are estimated not to have the essential digital skills they need for work, and within 20 years 90% of all jobs will require digital skills of some kind, it’s clear that more needs to be done.

Catch22, Nominet and Livity have come together to develop a research programme, which will produce a series of papers over the next 12 months, looking at the root causes for why so many young people remain excluded from work, specifically within digital roles. Bean Research will conduct the research as we seek to identify what the scale of the problem really is, what is and is not working, and how we can change things for the better.

Chris Ashworth, Head of Public Benefit at Nominet said:

“Whilst there have been many efforts over the last number of years to close the digital skills gap – both for the digital economy and to address underemployment and social mobility, real evidenced and sustainable change has evaded us. There are still far too many young people, particularly from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups not finding pathways into tech or digital careers. And there are still too many roles, from entry level upwards that are chronically hard to recruit for.

We can’t continue to repeat the same approaches expecting a different outcome. These papers are the start of a more forensic inspection of why these dynamics have been so hard to shift, what’s working – what’s not, why, and why not? What lessons can we draw from successful change elsewhere, and how we might need to adapt and develop initiatives that really work for people, for employers and for the UK economy.”  

Kat Dixon, Director of Partnerships at Catch22 said:

“Digital careers offer real opportunity for people to thrive. This isn’t just about jobs in tech companies – more and more organisations need digital capabilities, and roles with a digital component tend to offer better progression and pay, and the UK economy has a big gap to fill.

We’ve made great strides in tackling the digital divide and unlocking opportunities for the most disadvantaged. But we know that representation across minority groups isn’t where it needs to be. We need greater understanding of the mechanisms for change, and to ensure the people we support have their voices heard.

This partnership gives us an opportunity to look under the bonnet and get a real sense of what works and what doesn’t, so collectively we can make better decisions for the future.”

The insights from these papers will inform a set of recommendations, which will support Catch22, Nominet and Livity in their work to tackle systemic inequality. Catch22 will be leading the project in collaboration with Nominet and Livity.

Research reports

Digital Disadvantage: Barriers to Digital Skills and Access – Insights Paper 1

The first paper  – Opportunities and Barriers  –  sets the scene for the proceeding papers, highlighting the exciting opportunities presented from the growing digital economy and the substantial barriers disadvantaged communities face in accessing these opportunities. This paper has been informed by a research review and interviews with 10 experts from leading organisations working in the field of digital and youth inclusion.  

Read the first paper | Watch the launch event

Insights Paper 2: Who is being left behind? Which marginalised groups are struggling to bridge the digital divide?

This paper is the second in a series of four papers developed by Catch22 and Nominet to explore the barriers to digital skills and
access for some of the most disadvantaged young people in the UK. These insights will inform recommendations, which will
support Catch22 and Nominet in tackling systemic inequality, whilst directly responding to grassroots need.

Read the second paper | Watch the launch event


About Catch22

Catch22 is a social business, a not for profit business with a social mission. For over 200 years we have designed and delivered public services that build resilience and aspiration in people of all ages and within communities across the UK.

Our work in digital skills includes partnerships with Microsoft,, Salesforce and others to empower disadvantaged people to access digital careers. This forms part of our broader employability vision to tackle systemic inequality.

We also work with young people and families in trouble, delivering intervention and response services across child sexual and criminal exploitation, gang involvement, mental health support, family and social care services. Last year, our 1700 staff supported over 120,000 people to lead better lives.


About Nominet

Nominet is driven by a commitment to use technology to improve connectivity, security and inclusivity online. For 25 years, Nominet has run the UK internet infrastructure, developing an expertise in the Domain Name System (DNS) that now underpins sophisticated threat monitoring, detection, prevention, and analytics that is used by governments and enterprises to mitigate cyber threats.  Our public benefit programme aims to improve the lives of one million people, providing support and opportunities to tackle some of the most important digital issues facing young people in the UK today.


About Livity

For the past 20 years Livity have been focused on a central mission to make the future a better place for the next generation. Doing so through working with brands, governments and charities to create product, services, programmes and communications that serve young people better. Designing everything in collaboration with the young people that we are looking to serve.

Through Livity’s work, we have regularly been involved in digital skills programmes, both working with clients such as Barclays and Google to help improve digital literacy, to developing our own training programmes and partnering with Nominet on both Nominet Digital Neighbourhood and now the THIS IS HOW service that looks to tackle the digital skills gap in the UK by motivating young education leavers to consider digital careers – before supporting them to develop the skills required.