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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 and secure employment.[1] 

In 2014, the government estimated that the number of people who have never been online is decreasing at 3% a year, but the proportion of people who do not have basic digital capabilities has only been decreasing at about 1% of the adult population per year.[2]

In 2018:

  • 90% of adults in the UK were recent internet users, up from 89% in 2017 [6]. 
  • 8.4% of adults had never used the internet in 2018, down from 9.2% in 2017. 
  • Virtually all adults aged 16 to 34 years were recent internet users (99%) in 2018, compared with 44% of adults aged 75 years and over.
  • 20% of disabled adults had never used the internet in 2018, down from 22% in 2017. [3]

The Government’s digital inclusion strategy (2014) identified that:

  • 37% of those who are digitally excluded are social housing tenants.
  • 17% of people earning less than £20,000 never use the internet, as opposed to 2% of people earning more than £40,000. 44% of people without basic digital skills are on lower wages or are unemployed.
  • 33% of people with registered disabilities have never used the internet. This is 54% of the total number of people who have never used the internet.
  • Over 53% of people who lack basic digital skills are aged over 65, and 69% are over 55.
  • 6% of people who lack digital skills are between 15 and 24 years. Only 27% of young people who are offline are in full-time employment.

It is forecast that 90% of all jobs will soon require some form of digital capability and the UK faces a major shortage of digital skills at all levels.  Common causes of digital exclusion are:

  • Skills and the confidence to use them.
  • Access to infrastructure, fast broadband and local amenities, which can be worse in rural areas.[3]
  • Cost including devices, broadband subscription or monthly fees for mobile data.
  • Motivation and the personal aspiration that makes gaining digital skills relevant and important.[4]

In 2017, The Tech Partnership used a range of indicators to produce a 'heatmap' in which Herefordshire was rated ‘high’ for likelihood of overall digital exclusion. 

One measure of digital exclusion comes from the Labour Force survey, which estimates that in the first quarter of 2018, 93% of people aged 16 and over in Herefordshire had used the internet in the last three months; not significantly different from the UK as a whole, or the West Midlands region.  Since 2012 this figure has risen from 73%.[5]  

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

[2] Government Digital Inclusion Strategy, Cabinet Office, 2014.

[3] Statistical Bulletin:  Internet Users, Office for National Statistics (ONS), 2018. 

[4] Two-speed Britain: Major study reveals impact of gap in Internet access between rural and urban area, University of Aberdeen, 2 September 2015. 

[5] Digital exclusion, The Tech Partnership, 

[6] Internet Users, ONS, 2018.