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Research uncovers ‘the real digital divide’ facing millions in the UK

Fresh data has shown further evidence of the digital gulf in the UK facing millions of people with disabilities and older people.

A report by digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation and Professor Simeon Yates, titled ‘The real digital divide?’, examines the demographics of people in the UK who never or rarely use the internet. The report is based on (and builds on) a 2015 report from telecommunications regulatory body Ofcom on ‘Adults’ media use and attitudes’

In terms of usage, the research uncovered that 15.2 million people in the UK were found to be either ‘non-users’ (defined as people who have no internet access or don’t use the internet even if they have access) or ‘limited users’ (people who rarely and infrequently go online).

47.7% of the ‘non-user’ group were found to have “a long-standing illness, disability or infirmity,” representing around 3.7 million people in the UK. This compares to previous data from the Office for National Statistics, which found that 22% of disabled adults in the UK have never used the internet.

Age was also a key factor in non-use. 64.4% of non-users in the report are aged 65 or over, with 25.3% aged between 65-74 and 39.1% aged over 75.

Looking at the ‘limited users’ group, 47.4% reported having a disability or poor health, representing 3.5 million people. The report also state that: “Age is again a clear indicator of limited use, although not quite as marked as for non-users.” 18.5% of the ‘limited users’ group are aged 65-74, and 18.8% of the group are aged over 75.

Tom French, Research and Data Manager at Good Things Foundation, who led the report writing, told e-Access Bulletin that further work is necessary to explore non and limited internet use among these two groups. He said: “We need to commit to exploring this link so that we can influence government and digital leaders to truly embrace accessibility.”

Discussing what can be done to increase internet usage among these groups, French said: “Sustained support at a trusted community and peer level is essential. We recognise that basic digital skills pave the way for internet use, but we need to ensure that all types of use are catered for and that we support people to take advantage of the full breadth of benefits … The key finding [from the report] for us is that digital exclusion needs to be redefined as the digital landscape evolves, and is much, much wider than simply assessing whether someone has access to the internet (or devices) and whether they have online skills.”

Download ‘The real digital divide?’ (in PDF format) from the Good Things Foundation website: .


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