About digital inclusion and exclusion
Digital inclusion is about ensuring the benefits of the internet and digital technologies are available to everyone.
Digitally-excluded people are often older and/or have low educational attainment. Excluded people can lack skills, confidence and motivation, along with having limited or no access to equipment and connectivity. This can create additional layers of social exclusion and exacerbate social and economic problems. Getting online is usually life-enhancing and it can be life-changing!
Data on digital exclusion in the UK
Estimates for the proportion and number of people who are digitally excluded in the UK vary. The ONS annual survey of internet users (2019) estimates that 9% of UK adults have either never used the internet, or last used it over 3 months ago. That’s 5.9 million people.
Digital inclusion isn’t only about whether people can access the internet: it’s also about their ability to use it. 22% of UK adults (11.9m people) are classified as not having the Essential Digital Skills needed for day-to-day life, according to the 2019 Lloyds Consumer Digital Index.
For more statistics, see the GOV.uk Digital Inclusion Dashboard.
Interpreting the data
Digital inclusion statistics are useful for developing strategies, but they can sometimes appear contradictory, and there are a variety of potential sources. We can help you understand national statistics and what the data say about the risk of digital exclusion in your local area: contact us.
We have a broad understanding of the many issues surrounding digital inclusion, and in-depth analysis of how this issue should be tackled and how progress can be measured:
- The Case for a Systemic Approach to Digital Skills (pdf, 2014) – which covers our perspective on the relevance of digital inclusion to employability skills
- Digital Accessibility: a brief landscaping (pdf, 2015) – summarising the state of play regarding digital accessibility, looking at trends in demographics and technology; the policy and standards landscape; and the case for digital accessibility for businesses and other organisations
- Get IT Together: a longitudinal study (pdf, 2014) – research evaluating the impact of digital skills over the longer term, including employment outcomes.
The vital importance of partnership
The best way to help digitally-excluded people is to provide timely and informal support in convenient venues, and look for the “hook” (like a hobby or specific need) rather than focusing on the technology in itself.
The larger issue that holds back digital inclusion is the resourcing of this support. In an era of cuts and squeezed budgets, how can sufficient resources be found to tackle such a complex issue? The answer is through partnership and collaboration.
Partnership is an essential foundation for digital inclusion strategies. No organisation can solve this issue alone. A successful digital inclusion strategy and action plan will be based on:
- Knowing what current partners are already doing and what they have to offer
- Ensuring that the specific needs of individual partners are understood and met
- Finding a way to work together to resource provision and plug any gaps.
Citizens Online have worked with a variety of partners such as Local Authorities, Housing Associations, Job Centre Plus, regional health organisations (e.g. Clinical Commissioning Groups, regional economic organisations), businesses, and third sector organisations including those providing advice, guidance and training.
Each different partner we work with brings a unique value to digital inclusion work, and each will have their particular needs.
Whatever organisation you work for, if you think we can help you achieve your goals, please get in touch with us.