Digital inclusion is about ensuring the benefits of the internet and digital technologies are available to everyone.
Digitally-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!
“If you can’t use a computer, if you don’t have access for whatever reason, you’ve become a non-person in society”Margaret, Sidcup
Data on digital exclusion in the UK
It’s estimated that 7.8% of UK adults have either never used the internet, or last used it over 3 months ago. That’s 4.2 million people (Office for National Statistics, 2020).
Digital inclusion isn’t only about whether people can access the internet: it’s also about their ability to use it. 21% of UK adults, or 11m people, do not have the Essential Digital Skills needed for day-to-day life. (Lloyds Consumer Digital Index 2021)
For more statistics, see the gov.uk Digital Inclusion Dashboard.
The vital importance of partnership
The best way to help digitally-excluded people is to provide one to one support with trusted digital champions. People need a “hook”, like a hobby or specific need to get started on their digital journey.
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 has worked with a variety of partners such as Local Authorities, Housing Associations, Job Centre Plus, national and regional health organisations (e.g. Public Health England, Clinical Commissioning Groups) regional economic organisations, businesses, and third sector organisations to build local digital inclusion partnerships. Read more about our previous projects.