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NEW REPORT ESTIMATES INVESTMENT OF £875 MILLION NEEDED TO CREATE A 100% DIGITALLY SKILLED NATION BY 2020

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Helen Milner
  • Today, 78% of UK adult population has the Basic Online Skills to use the internet regularly for them, leaving 11 million people who still can’t send and receive email, use a search engine, browse the internet and complete online forms
  • A new report commissioned by Tinder Foundation and Go ON UK, estimates that without increased investment 6.2 million people will remain without basic online skills in 2020
  • The report estimates a £292 million investment taken from existing training and skills budgets across the private, public and voluntary sectors will help empower the hardest to reach groups with basic online skills by 2020 – with the cost per person varying from £47 to £319.
  • The report suggests that with an annual investment across all three sectors of £146 million over 6 years, the government would need to invest less than £50 million annually to achieve a 100% digitally skilled nation by 2020.
  • Tinder Foundation and Go ON UK calls on government, private sector and voluntary sector organisations to join their partnership and urgently review their adult training and skills investments to ensure that everyone in the UK has basic online skills by 2020.

A national commitment to get everyone online by 2020 would cost an annual investment of £146 million over a 6-year period if spread across the private, public and voluntary sectors – according to a new report launched today.

Helen Milner

Helen Milner

It’s the first estimate of the investment needed to create a 100% digitally skilled nation – where there are still 11 million people without the Basic Online Skills.

The report – A Leading Digital Nation by 2020 [A Leading Digital Nation by 2020 – Calculating the cost of delivering online skills for all. Report by Catherine Macdonald for the Tinder Foundation & Go ON UK, February 2014] – uses information on the profile of the 11 million and current interventions to get people online, factoring in the barriers, challenges and costs to up-skill the hardest to reach groups which includes 2 million people of working age and 4 million retired citizens.

Creating a 100% digitally skilled nation is a vision which has gained momentum since policy makers and business forecasters started counting the cost of digital exclusion in billions. In terms of lost revenue for UK PLC, potential savings for Government, and missed opportunities for citizens these include:

  • £108 million estimated annual savings for the NHS if just 1% of their face-to-face visits were converted to NHS Choices visits
  • £1.7 billion – Government Digital Service estimate of potential savings per annum of digital by default public services
  • £560 potential saving per household if a family shops and pays bills online
  • £63 billion – Booz & Co report estimated economic benefit if UK led the world in digitization

With countries like Norway already achieving internet use-age rates of 98%, the suggestion is that we adopt an accelerated approach to reap the benefits of a 100% digitally skilled nation by 2020. The report encourages government and partners in the private and voluntary sectors to act now to share the investment needed to ensure everyone in the UK benefits from what the web has to offer.

Lord Jim Knight of Weymouth is Chair of the Tinder Foundation, which commissioned the report. He said: “The fact is that digital exclusion costs Britain money. Not having the access, motivation or skills to use the internet has a real social and human impact, affecting pay, health, educational attainment and more. In turn, that has an economic impact, and it’s holding Britain back. Over the last five years the evidence has grown to show how a 100% digital nation could make Britain truly great – saving the government and NHS billions of pounds, boosting the economy and building human capital. The cost of digital inclusion – based on this new model – is a drop in the ocean compared to the potential savings and benefits of investment. So let’s be bold. Let’s work together. And let’s get it done by 2020.”

Graham Walker, CEO of Go ON UK said: “GO ON UK’s vision is to bring partners together from all sectors to make the UK the world’s most digitally skilled nation. I welcome this report as a contribution to the debate on the investment required from all sectors to achieve our goal. If by 2020, we leave 6.2 million, largely poor and older adults without basic online skills then we will have failed.”

“The report suggests that £146 million annual investment will ensure everyone in the UK has basic online skills by 2020. The government alone spends more than £4 billion annually on adult skills and training. We are asking the government and organisations in all sectors to urgently review their current training and skills investments to ensure that the UK reaps the huge social and economic benefits of universal Internet use. “

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Climate extremes seen harming unborn babies in Brazil’s Amazon

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Climate extremes seen harming unborn babies in Brazil's Amazon 1

By Jack Graham

(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new study that links extreme rains with lower birth weights in Brazil’s Amazon region underscores the long-term health impacts of weather extremes connected to climate change, researchers said on Monday.

Exceptionally heavy rain and floods during pregnancy were linked to lower birth weight and premature births in Brazil’s northern Amazonas state, according to the researchers from Britain’s Lancaster University and the FIOCRUZ health research institute.

They compared nearly 300,000 births over 11 years with local weather data and found babies born after extreme rainfall were more likely to have low birth weights, which is linked to worse educational, health and even income attainment as adults.

Even non-extreme intense rainfall was linked to a 40% higher chance of a child being low birth-weight, according to the study, published on Monday in the Nature Sustainability journal.

Co-author Luke Parry said heavy rains and flooding could cause increases in infectious diseases like malaria, shortages of food and mental health issues in pregnant women, leading to lower birth weights.

“It’s an example of climate injustice, because these mothers and these communities are very, very far from deforestation frontiers in the Amazon,” Parry told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“They’ve contributed very little to climate change but are being hit first and worst,” he added, saying he had been “surprised by just how severe these impacts are”.

Severe flooding on the Amazon river is five times more common than just a few decades ago, according to a 2018 paper in the journal Science Advances.

Last week, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visited the neighbouring state of Acre in the Brazilian rainforest, which is under a state of emergency after heavy flooding.

Parry said local people had adapted their lifestyles to deal with climate change, but that “the extent of the extreme river levels and rainfalls has basically exceeded people’s adaptive capacities”.

The negative impacts were even worse for adolescent and indigenous mothers.

The study said the “long-term political neglect of provincial Amazonia” and “uneven development in Brazil” needed to be addressed to tackle the “double burden” of climate change and health inequalities.

It said policy interventions should include antenatal health coverage and transport for rural teenagers to finish high school, as well as improved early warning systems for floods.

(Reporting by Jack Graham; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

 

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Energy leaders grapple with climate targets at virtual CERAWeek

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Energy leaders grapple with climate targets at virtual CERAWeek 2

By Ron Bousso and Jessica Resnick-Ault

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global energy leaders and other luminaries like incoming Amazon Chief Executive Andy Jassy focused on the tough road to transforming world economies to a lower-carbon future at the kickoff of the world’s largest energy conference on Monday.

Numerous speakers at CERAWeek were prepared to talk about the energy transition and the need for future investment in renewables. But many oil and gas executives were vocal about the need for more fossil-fuel investment in coming years, even as a way of leading the world to a lower-carbon future.

“One of the most urgent things we can do to combat global warming is to back carbon-emitting companies that are committed to get to net zero,” said Bernard Looney, CEO of BP Plc, one of several European oil majors to have committed to ambitious targets of cutting emissions to reach net zero carbon by 2050.

CERAWeek was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which stopped billions of people from traveling and wiped out one-fifth of worldwide demand for fuel.

The U.S. fossil fuel industry is still reeling after tens of thousands of jobs were lost. The pandemic has instead accelerated the transition to renewable fuels and electrification of key elements of energy use. Global majors have been playing catch-up, responding to demands from investors to lower production of fuels that contribute to global warming.

The primary message on Monday, however, was that achieving net zero – where polluting emissions are offset by technologies that absorb carbon dioxide for the atmosphere – is going to be difficult.

“There just isn’t yet enough renewable energy to fuel all of the energy that people need. That’s in developed countries,” said Andy Jassy, head of Amazon.com Inc’s cloud division who will succeed Jeff Bezos as CEO this summer.

He said the company had announced its goal for net zero emissions at a time when it had not entirely figured out how to get there.

Since the 2019 conference, many of the world’s major oil companies have set ambitious goals to shift new investments to technologies that will reduce carbon emissions to slow global warming. BP has largely jettisoned its oil exploration team; U.S. auto giant General Motors Co announced plans to stop making gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles in 15 years.

Oil companies have come under increasing pressure from shareholders, governments and activists to show how they are changing their businesses from fossil fuels toward renewables, and to accelerate that transition. However, numerous speakers warned that the viability of certain technologies, such as hydrogen, remains far in the future.

Hydrogen “is a very small business at this point in time, it will scale up, and it will take a long time before it is a business that is large enough to start making a real difference on sort of planetary scale,” said Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden.

Other speakers expected to appear include several representatives from national oil companies along with CEOs of Exxon Mobil, Total, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, though many are participating in panels focusing on the energy transition.

Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, was scheduled to appear, but backed out, citing a conflict.

Some CEOs said more oil and gas investment was necessary.

“We don’t think peak oil is around the corner – we see oil demand growing for the next 10 years,” said John Hess, CEO of Hess Corp. “We’re not investing enough to grow oil and gas in the future,” he said, explaining that prices would need to rise to support that investment.

(Reporting By Ron Bousso, Jessica Resnick-Ault and Marianna Parraga; additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici, Stephanie Kelly, Jeffrey Dastin and Gary McWilliams; writing by David Gaffen; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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AstraZeneca sells stake in vaccine maker Moderna for nearly $1 billion

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AstraZeneca sells stake in vaccine maker Moderna for nearly $1 billion 3

(Reuters) – AstraZeneca sold its stake in rival COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna for roughly $1 billion over the course of last year as the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker cashed in on the meteoric rise in the U.S. company’s shares.

London-listed AstraZeneca recorded $1.38 billion in equity portfolio sales last year, with “a large proportion” of it coming from the Moderna sale, according its latest annual report.

Shares in Moderna, which went public in 2018 at $23 per share, surged more than five times last year after it began working on a COVID-19 vaccine based on a new mRNA technology that won U.S. approval in December.

Its shot relies on synthetic genes to send a message to the body’s immune system to build immunity and can be produced at a scale more rapidly than conventional vaccines like AstraZeneca’s.

Last week, Moderna said it was expecting $18.4 billion in sales from the vaccine this year, putting it on track for its first profit since its founding in 2010.

AstraZeneca began investing in Moderna in 2013, paying $240 million upfront and by the end of 2019 had built up its stake to 7.65%.

That would be worth about $3.2 billion based on Moderna’s 2020 closing stock price of $104.47, Reuters calculation showed.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine being developed with Oxford University has not been authorized in the United States and uses a weakened version of a chimpanzee common cold virus to deliver immunity-building proteins to the body.

In December, U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co said it had sold its equity investment in Moderna, but did not disclose the details of the sale proceeds.

Asset manager Baillie Gifford on Monday disclosed in a separate filing it now held 11% passive stake in Moderna as of Feb. 26.

Moderna shares were down 5% at $146.62 in afternoon trading.

(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee, Pushkala Aripaka, Kanishka Singh and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Jason Neely, David Evans and Arun Koyyur)

 

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