British digital divide examined in government study

According to a recent report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 5 million adults in the UK, representing 10 per cent of the entire population, are still not using the internet.

The study, titled “Exploring the UK’s digital divide”, examines the reasons as to why a fraction of the country is averse to using the internet at all. Amongst other reasons, disability, lack of technical skills and an absence of desire are all factors, with no immediate solutions.

In a statement released by the ONS, the institute claimed: “While digital inclusion has been increasing in recent years and there are some clear benefits for both the individual and wider society, some people remain digitally excluded. This is particularly the case among certain groups, including older people and disabled people as well as potentially those not living in private households and who are unlikely to be well reflected in this analysis.

“The barriers to digital inclusion suggest a part of the education for skills may need to start by highlighting the benefits of being online and overcoming any apprehension to engagement. However, the fact that people remain digitally excluded also highlights the importance of ensuring that non-digital alternatives continue to be made available to enable everyone to participate fully in society.”

The research revealed that the number of internet non-users was on the decline. Despite this, statistics for 2018 showed that 58 per cent – 3.1 million – of the non-users were women. In terms of assessing areas, Northern Ireland and North East England were found to have the highest percentage of internet non-users at 14.2 per cent and 12.1 per cent respectively, whilst London was the lowest at just 7 per cent.

The aim of the study is to understand why so many people were classed as non-users, and to examine they could be swayed to access services online as part of the government’s internet initiative “Digital by Default” due to the numerous benefits it offers. From saving money and time, to increase earning potentials and employability by 3-10 per cent, the report assesses the measures required to create a complete digital society.