​Published: 3rd September 2019 

Available for a year

Presenter:Dr Josie Barnard, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing with Journalism,
Department of Media, Middlesex University London
Phone: 020 8411 4583
Email: J.Barnard@mdx.ac.uk
Producer:Emma Barnaby
Executive Producer:Deborah Dudgeon


Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Digital Futures: The New Underclass BBC Radio 4

22% of the British population lack the digital skills they need to get by day-to-day. That's more than one in five people who struggle with signing their child up to school, filling in a tax return, or even using a smartphone to make a call. And as more and more essential services move online, falling behind the pace of change carries severe consequences.

For young people, the risks of being left behind are buried under the assumption that they are digital natives - that they have supposedly grown up with an innate ability to use digital technology. But as the number of smartphone-only households grows, millions of children are in danger of their digital world shrinking around a tiny touchscreen.

Dr Barnard asks if this is simply a question of affordability and motivation, or whether more complicated factors are at play. She speaks to people struggling to find space at public computer banks to complete their Universal Credit forms, and a group who are jumping hurdles to get online because of their severe dyslexia, and gets behind the screens of smartphone-only teenagers to find out how the kind of device and the way we use it can be just as detrimental as not having it at all.

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You don't need to be media savvy or an Internet whizz to join us in creating tomorrow's history today. Stories past and present will contribute to the silicon Fen-Edge Village of Cottenham for generations to come... 

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Dr Josie Barnard investigates the deep social divides created by the digital world, who is affected, and the consequences of being left behind...


Whether booking a flight to go on holiday or ordering a takeaway, digital technology is so embedded in everyday life that it's easy to assume everyone is on a level playing field. Or that those who aren't are part of an older generation who didn't grow up with computers. But that's a dangerous assumption.

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Digital Futures: the New Underclass
"One in five people in Britain lack the digital skills they need to get by day-to-day."