OFCOM has released a report digital exclusion among adults in the UK. The below overview from the report is a simplified high-level summary only.
The report provides an overview of Ofcom’s historical research on digital exclusion and of the more recent impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, both positive and negative.
It shows that the number of adults in the UK unable to access the internet fell steadily in the years leading up to the pandemic, and that the pandemic has made people more reliant on internet access than ever before: the latest figures indicate that the number of households who do not have access to the internet at home currently stands at 6%.
However, the reports shows from research that online access is not the only factor in digital exclusion. Confidence in navigating the online sphere and knowing how to stay safe online are prerequisites to reaping the full benefits of the internet.
Furthermore, their research suggests that as the proportion of people without internet access declines, the negative impacts of remaining offline become more acute, as an increasing number of services and support networks become digital-only.
While much of Ofcom’s work focuses on helping consumers get online and navigate the digital sphere, they also accept that there are some consumers for whom digital access will never be a priority, whether due to lack of interest, a limiting condition, or being part of an older generation.
Digital exclusion is therefore a challenge to be tackled on three fronts: supporting those who want to get online; providing less confident users with essential digital skills; and ensuring that those who remain offline are not left behind.
Key points and statistics
6% of households did not have access to the internet at home in December 2021.
Those more at risk of digital exclusion included older citizens; the most financially vulnerable; those not working; people living alone; and people impacted by a limiting condition e.g. hearing or vision impairment.
User choice, cost issues, and a lack of skills or confidence are all contributory factors in digital exclusion.
The Covid-19 pandemic enabled some adults to gain new digital skills and enjoy the benefits of being online, but for others the digital divide has become more entrenched as an increasing number of everyday activities and services have moved online.
You can download the full report below