Across Stockport, many adults still lack the basic digital skills they need to participate in today’s world. Digital exclusion disproportionately affects vulnerable people, low-income groups, the elderly and the more marginalised communities in our society. There is a strong correlation between digital exclusion and social exclusion.

Why does Digital Inclusion matter?

People who are offline are missing out on all the benefits the internet can provide.

Without digital it’s hard to:

  • stay in touch with family and friends
  • find savings (connected households save over £300 a year on utility bills alone)
  • access services – as more and more services are moving to online only, there is a risk that some people are being left behind and becoming excluded
  • progress fully with schoolwork or further education
  • find a job (90% of jobs require some digital skill) or a better paid job (people with digital skills earn 3-10% more than those without)
  • connect with what’s happening locally or get involved in activities that combat social isolation
  • control or improve their health by using apps to monitor exercise, diet and health

The Covid-19 pandemic brought this to a head. As residents were locked down, those without access to the internet were excluded from employment, education, online services and online support from family, friends and their communities. The need for digital became more apparent than ever.

The three main barriers to getting online are the lack of motivation, lack of skills and confidence and the cost of equipment to access the internet. Some people may have multiple barriers. (Source:
Good Things Foundation, 2019 – Digital Motivation: Exploring the reasons people are offline)

Lack of motivation

Motivation has been the biggest barrier, with the greatest apathy towards digital in our older population. More than half of non-users say the internet is not for them or “people like me” and do not see the personal benefit in being online. They may have had no real need to go online and/or fear going on the internet.

Lack of skills and confidence

Another reason that non-users cite for being offline is that the internet is too complicated for them. This reflects that they do not have the skills to go online, and they do not have access to support to help them do so. They lack not just basic digital skills but also an understanding of how the internet works.

Cost of access

The final barrier identified for non-users is the cost of accessing the internet. This is related to the affordability of devices as well as connection costs for running these devices. This group also reflects that access can vary over time, such as with the increasing cost of data competing with other essential services or expenditures.

Who is offline?

During lockdown, we saw an upsurge in motivation to get online. People who weren’t interested before needed digital to shield, work or complete schoolwork, order shopping online, find out information or keep up with family. Lloyds Digital Consumer Index 2021 has analysed data since the pandemic and found that 1.5 million more people have started using the internet.

Older adults are more likely to be digitally excluded than any other group. Although internet use is increasing across all age groups, nearly half of people aged 75 and over have not used it within the last three months, and over a third have never used it. (Source: NHS Digital Project GM.)

10% of those offline are under 50 years old, and 55% earn under £20,000. People out of work are less likely to be digitally capable and confident. Over one-third of UK, benefit claimants have very low digital engagement. 15% of non-users of the internet cite cost as the main reason they are not online. (Source: Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2021

Limited users

Limited users have low levels of engagement with specific apps and sites, sometimes including social media. This group also includes those whose access varies over time. For example, households might lose access due to increasing broadband or mobile data costs. Longer term, current users may cease to use some or all digital systems at key life stages. This is especially marked after retirement if their digital skills become obsolete as technology changes. (Source: New analysis of 2020 Ofcom media use and attitudes data.)

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