Sector must improve digital skills, Google and Twitter tell peers

Nick Pickles, head of policy at Twitter, and David Skelton, public policy manager at Google, tell a House of Lords committee it is crucial to improve confidence in digital technology at charities

The charity sector must do more to improve its digital skills, representatives from Google and Twitter have told the Lords Select Committee on Charities.

Nick Pickles, UK head of policy at Twitter, and David Skelton, public policy and government relations manager at Google, told peers on the committee this week that although there were a lot of good examples of pioneering digital work in the charity sector, much effort was still required to improve the sector’s use of technology.

Pickles said the business world had similar varations between organisations in terms of proficiency with social media, and in many cases smaller organisations "can embrace technology quicker" than larger charities.

He said that increasing confidence in digital technology among charities was crucial.

"If you are already doing marketing, if you already go to speak at public events, social media is an extension of that – it’s not something different," he said. "So a lot of it is building confidence and skills."

Pickles said the internet had led to a proliferation of "micro-charities" and this had changed the nature of the sector.

"They’re working more like start-ups and less like large charities that move slowly," he said.

Google’s Skelton said digital was a crucial way in which charities could achieve their objectives.

"I think it is important for all charities to realise that digital is a really key part of achieving their fundamental goals," he said.

"The fundamental point is that digital for many charities is not just a nice-to-have, but is also a fundamental way to help them achieve their core mission."

He said there was already some "really world-leading work" being done at charities. "I think a lot of people who work in charities are social innovators, and a lot of that innovation is really important," Skelton said.

He added that "being digital" did not have to be expensive for charities and could save them money because using products that worked through the cloud rather than expensive IT servers would make them more efficient.

Pickles said social media offered charities a way of communicating with and engaging beneficiaries without intermediaries and in real time.

He said social media "levels the playing field" for smaller charities trying to make their voices heard.

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