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Digital exclusion

Digital exclusion is the inability to access online products or services, or to use simple forms of digital technology.  It can contribute to loneliness and involuntary social isolation as well as making it difficult to access information and services, education and secure employment.[1] 

Digital exclusion has the potential to exacerbate social exclusion and those who are socially excluded are less likely to use the internet and benefit from the internet applications that may help them tackle their exclusion.[1]

People may be digitally excluded for multiple reasons, including not having access to the required infrastructure and/or devices, lack of skills, or lack of motivation to use technology.  The main factors that influence the risk of digital exclusion in the UK are age, geographical location, socioeconomic status and whether a person has a disability. 

Recent cost-of-living pressures are also forcing many households to cancel their broadband contracts. 

  • Nationally, ONS reports that in 2020 92% of adults in the UK were recent internet users: up from 91% in 2019. Almost all adults aged 16 to 44 years were recent internet users (99%), compared with 54% of adults aged 75 years and over, although this proportion had increased from 29% in 2013. 81% of disabled adults were recent internet users.  6.3% of adults had never used the internet: down from 7.5% in 2019.
  • The proportion of adults in Herefordshire who are either lapsed or non-internet users has declined in recent years in line with the trend nationally. There was an increase in 2020 although this was not statistically significant. ONS estimate that there are around 17,000 adults (age 16+) in Herefordshire who don’t use the internet.

Figure 1:  Lapsed and non-internet users

Source:  Office for National Statistics, Internet Users, 2021

  • The 2023 Community Wellbeing Survey found that 88% of Herefordshire adults regularly access the internet for non-work purposes: similar to 2021 (89%). 12% do not use it regularly but this proportion rises for people living in the most deprived locations (19%), aged 65+ (25%), and with no formal educational qualifications (41%). Asked why, 44% say it’s because they don’t need it, however 31% say they don’t have the skills, rising to 48% amongst Housing Association tenants.
  • While 35% of people say their use of the internet increased since that start of the COVID-19 pandemic, for 5% it has reduced, rising to 12% among those in the most deprived locations, 11% amongst Housing Association tenants and 12% of people with an ethnic minority background.
  • 41% of people are positive about more things being provided online - a 17% point decrease since 2021 (58%). 35% are now concerned about more things being provided online: an increase of 13% points from 2021 and the proportion is higher amongst those aged 55+ (46%), the economically inactive (44% - likely driven by age), people with no formal educational qualifications (43%), those with a disability (43%) or those who receive care (43%), and those who do not use the internet regularly (54%).
  • The 2022 Telecare Users’ Survey found that 49% of users in Herefordshire do not use the internet (down slightly from 52% in 2019), 36% of users say they are not confident using it.

[1] The role of digital exclusion in social exclusion, Martin, C., Hope, S. and Zubairi, S., Ipsos MORI Scotland, 2016.