Digitally divided: just 16% of adults recognise 20 common tech terms

A survey from Sky Betting & Gaming looking into the UK’s tech capabilities has revealed that just 16% of adults can identify 20 common tech terms, with 7% not being able to identify a single one from a list that included terms like ‘blogging’, ‘spam’, ‘3G’, and ‘World Wide Web’.

It also reveals a stark contrast in the knowledge of more advanced terms linked to coding between respondents from the North and the South, with southerners knowing, on average, three times as many coding terms from a list of 20 than those from the North.

This has implications for the continued development of digital clusters in the Northern Powerhouse and shows that a digital skills north/south divide still persists.

The lack of skilled talent was cited as the single biggest barrier to growth by Leeds tech businesses in a recent Tech Nation report for government.

Including popular expressions such as ‘blogging’, ‘spam’, ‘3G’, ‘keyword’ and ‘World Wide Web’, the general tech terms list was compiled to include the most basic indicators of entry-level digital terminology. The coding list included more specialist terms, such as C++, HTML, Java and Python.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee recently published a report stating that the digital skills gap was costing the UK economy £63 billion a year in lost GDP. It also points out the 12.6 million adults in the UK who lack basic digital skills.

Richard Flint, CEO of Sky Betting and Gaming, said; “Too many people are missing out on the benefits of digital knowledge. We need to work together to promote the opportunities offered by the tech economy. That is why we’ve invested in a software academy and are promoting coding for all at Sky Betting & Gaming. We want to work with Government to ensure that Northern tech companies aren’t held back by a lack of talent.”

The Leeds-based digital company, which currently employs over 1,000 people, including some of the largest tech teams in the cities of Sheffield and Leeds, was recently named by GP Bullhound as one of the North’s eight tech unicorns, or companies that are valued at $1bn or over.

It has introduced a number of programmes to address the digital skills gap, including an initiative to support their staff who are thinking about a career in coding.

Called ‘Coding for Beginners’, the three-hour session uses Ruby to walk attendees through some simple games to give a taste of how coding is applied when solving a number of problems and is designed to remove any mystery around what happens when software is written.

It also has a unique focus on making mistakes to replicate the reality of discussions about why things aren’t working and how a fix can be sought. Finding and fixing problems is often one of the hardest things coders are tasked with, but very little time in beginner courses is dedicated to it.

Tom Hudson, the Lead Engineer from Sky Betting & Gaming who developed the course says; “Laura Thomson from Mozilla said ‘the most important product of senior engineers is more senior engineers’ and being able to code is a useful skill to have in your arsenal, regardless of what you do professionally. At the very least I hope people will gain an appreciation of what engineers do and hone their analytical thinking skills.I hope people are inspired to learn more.”

Richard Rolfe co-founder of National Coding Week, said “It’s really important for organisations like Sky Betting & Gaming to help develop digital skills within the community, this looks like a brilliant opportunity for those who have a desire to learn coding skills and start their first steps on a journey to a new career.”

The survey also showed that the top five most commonly recognised terms are ‘Blogging’ (89%), ‘Spam’ (89%), ‘SMS’ (88%), ‘Cookie’ (87%) and ‘3G’ (86%).

74% of respondents, however, had never heard of SEO and 61% had never heard of RSS, despite many of the UK’s main news outlets providing this service for nearly two decades.

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