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Britain’s digital divide: 7 million households have no internet access

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7 million households have no internet access according to the UK’s House of Lords’ Communications and Digital Committee (CDC) published, who its report at the end of June titled: Digital exclusion. Summarising their findings they say that the Government has “no credible strategy” to tackle digital exclusion. That’s a good start isn’t it?

Statistics flagged by the CDC report include*:

  • 4m people are still unable to complete a single basic digital task to get online such as opening an internet browser, connecting to a wifi network, updating a password or using a mouse.
  • 5m workers will be acutely under skilled in basic digital skills by 2030.
  • 7m households have no broadband or mobile internet access.
  • £63bn is lost each year to the UK economy each year due to overall digital skills shortages.
  • 1m people have cut back or cancelled their internet packages in the last year due to affordability issues.

These figures may seem shocking, but they’re not. It is a fact of life and it is called: the digital divide. Just as with all activities in the world, the poor get poorer due to lack of access, lack of knowledge and lack of money. Offering free education in libraries to the elderly is one solution, but it is too basic. In fact, the CDC’s report goes way further in its recommendations for solutions:

  • Urgent action to help with the cost of living crisis: This should include scrapping VAT on social internet tariffs to reduce the cost, and working with the private sector to scale up internet voucher schemes. The Government should make public sector organisations donate old devices to digital inclusion projects, and encourage the private sector to do the same.
  • Investment in basic skills: the most basic digital skills are now as important as maths and literacy. They should feature more prominently in schools, apprenticeships and adult learning courses. The focus should be on basic skills, not coding.
  • Boosting digital inclusion hubs: There is inadequate support for community based digital inclusion hubs. The Government should support libraries and other community venues to take a bigger role in supporting digital inclusion.
  • Future-proofing public services: the Government must review the increasing use of predictive machine-learning tools in public services to ensure the digitally excluded do not face further marginalisation due to poor representation in the datasets used to inform algorithmic decision making.

Having downloaded the report (you can do that here) it is interesting that item number two – skills – is key to bank strategies. For example, Lloyds Banking Group are quoted in the report outlining their essential digital skills framework:

The Foundation Level involves the eight most fundamental tasks to set someone up for using the online world, for example turning on a device, entering login information, using a keyboard or locating a web browser.

The Essential Digital Skills for Life involves skills needed to navigate life online. This covers 26 tasks regarding communication, handling information and content, financial transactions, solving problems, and being safe online.

The Essential Digital Skills for Work involves 20 work tasks in five skill areas, for example using collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams; accessing information; accessing salary information; and completing digital records.

Connectivity: the availability of a suitable internet connection. This may be provided by fixed broadband or wireless internet services.

Source: Lloyds Bank, 2022 Consumer Digital Index

Why is it so important to a bank to ensure people are digitally skilled and enabled? I guess because all the branches are closing, cash is now being driven out by contactless and apps, and there is an assumption that everyone can use the internet.

Don’t assume that guys, as anyone who assumes anything makes an ass of u and me.

 

Postscript:

There are lies, darned lies and statistics. In this case, has the CDC exaggerated the results? Ofcom (the Office of Communications) and ONS (the Office of National Statistics) show that 6 per cent of UK households have no access to the internet and 4.2 million adults have either never used the internet or have not used it in the past three months.

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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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