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Focus on local digital inclusion

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: About digital engagement
Zach Johnstone and Beccy Russell
Zach Johnstone and Beccy Russell

I thought it would be helpful to write a post that captures all of the areas of digital inclusion (DI) that we are working on.

Hopefully, it will serve as a resource for people working or planning to work in and around digital inclusion at the local level. I’ve included links to resources to increase understanding about:

  • what digital inclusion is
  • why it is important
  • who is digitally excluded and where
  • the five key critical success factors in successful local DI initiatives
  • how to measure DI at the local level

What is digital inclusion and why it is important

Digital inclusion is giving people the skills, access, motivation and trust to go online to do a whole range of things. There are currently 10.5 million UK adults (source: BBC Media Literacy, Nov 2014) who lack the basic digital skills to do this.

A growing body of evidence indicates that DI has significant potential to deliver economic, social and health outcomes for both society and the individual.

  • Go ON UK and Booz & Co research estimates that if the UK achieved global leadership in digitisation it could add £63 billion to its annual GDP.
  • Research commissioned by BT estimates the social value for individuals of getting online for the first time at £1,064 per annum delivered through enhanced job searching, saving time and money and reduced loneliness.

We want to make sure that everyone in the UK has the digital capability to take full advantage of being online, including small businesses and charities, many of which (around 50% when taken together) don’t even have a website.

Who is digitally excluded?

Within the 10.5 million people who lack basic online skills, we know that:

  • Women - make up 57% of people without basic online skills
  • Older people - people aged 55+ - make up 75% of those without basic online skills (to note, people aged 65+ make up 57% of those without basic online skills)
  • Lower socio-economic status - people in C2DE households make up 69% of those without basic online skills

There is also notable regional variation, ranging from as few as 11% lacking basic online skills in the South-East to as many as 25% in the North East.

In terms of internet use, we know that whilst the so-called ‘digital divides’ have narrowed over time, internet use in the UK is still strongly stratified by age, (dis)ability, income, education and geography. Digital inequalities follow lines of social disadvantage. The main groups most at risk of digital exclusion are:

  • Those in lower socioeconomic status groups
  • A quarter of those in DE households don’t use the internet at all, compared to less than one in ten AB (5%) and C1 (9%) adults. (Ofcom Adults’ media use and attitudes Report 2015)
  • Those with lower levels of education
  • Only 40% of those without qualifications use the internet, compared with more than double that among those with any level of formal educational qualifications. (OXIS 2013)
  • Those with a disability or in poor health
  • 27% of disabled adults (3.3 million) have never used the internet, compared with just 7% of non-disabled adults (ONS Internet Users 2015)
  • Half a million disabled adults last used the internet over 3 months ago, making up 48% of lapsed internet users (ONS Internet Users 2015)
  • Older people (who are likely to have lower incomes, lower levels of education and one or more disabilities or health conditions)
  • Of the 5.9 million adults who have never used the internet, just over half (3.0 million) are aged 75 years and over. (ONS Internet Users 2015)
  • 61% of adults aged 75 and over have never used the internet, compared with 0.4% of 16-24 year olds. Adults aged 75+ also had the highest rate of lapsed internet users, at 6%, compared with 0.3% of adults aged 16 to 24 years. (ONS Internet Users 2015)

Barriers to digital inclusion

Barriers include access, skills and - increasingly - motivational factors, such as lack of interest or perceived need for getting online. ONS data shows that, among households without internet access:

  • (53%) say they don’t have a connection because they 'did not need it'  (up from 34% in 2006);
  • 32% indicated that this was due to a lack of skills;
  • high equipment costs and access costs are also a barrier to 12% and 11% of households respectively.

Successfully embedding digital inclusion in local policy and services

We have investigated successful local and national digital inclusion initiatives where DI has been embedded and supported the achievement of wider outcomes.  Our route map, although created with central government in mind, may help you see how others have approached this. More recently, we have produced three blog posts that highlight not only the five critical success factors (here and here) in delivering effective local initiatives, but also showcased how Cambridgeshire  has successfully rolled out a superfast broadband programme and invested in upskilling local residents too.  

Measuring progress against outcomes

We have developed a Digital Inclusion Outcomes Framework and supporting tools to enable people to measure and evidence the contribution that digital inclusion/skills activity make to better outcomes in areas of policy that matter, locally and across the UK. This will help further build the evidence base, demonstrate the value of digital inclusion activity to individuals, communities and society, and make the case for investment.

We’d really like to hear about how digital inclusion is being taken forward in your local area and what you’d like us to focus on in future blog posts.  Please do add your comments below.

Follow Beccy on Twitter and don’t forget to sign up to alerts to the Digital inclusion blog.

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  1. Comment by Peter posted on

    Hi Beccy,

    nice summary 🙂

    I was looking on for data on digital inclusion and couldn't see anything.

    Is there any data on the costs/outcomes from the projects that have been run in the year since the digital inclusion strategy was launched that can be opened up? Or anything from the new digital inclusion outcomes framework?


    • Replies to Peter>

      Comment by Catriona McGrath posted on

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for your comment.

      The DI Outcomes Framework, which has just been launched, was developed to address the need for exactly the kind of data you describe. We're now working with partners to use the Framework and build the evidence base. We'll be sharing findings as soon as these become available.

  2. Comment by peter posted on


    I'm aware of the effort to update the strategy.

    I have raised a request through the process (1) to see if that team can find / openly publish any data.


  3. Comment by Pacarjar posted on

    It would be helpful if there was an explanation of what the term 'Digital Inclusion' is.

    • Replies to Pacarjar>

      Comment by Simon Leeming posted on

      Hi Pacajar. Thanks for the comment; it's always helpful to get feedback on how well our message gets across (or not!). All of our posts have a short paragraph at the top right which reads 'Digital inclusion is about having the right access, skills, motivation and trust to confidently go online'. We're always thinking about how we can improve the way we communicate, so thanks again for the input.