Last week Lloyds Bank published their annual UK Consumer Digital Index 2020, giving us an overview of the digital inclusion landscape across the UK. This annual publication provides insights to attitudes and behaviours of those who are online and offline, a useful resource for anyone delivering digital inclusion interventions. Here are some of our key takeaways:
The ‘offline’ profile
A key measure of digital inclusion is the level of skill someone must have to navigate the online world. This is measured through the Essential Digital Skills Framework. This framework includes 5 key skills for life, as well as foundation skills such as turning on a device and interacting with the home screen. UK-wide, 84% of people are able to demonstrate all 7 foundation digital skills, but in Scotland this is slightly lower, at 77%. That’s 23% of people in Scotland that cannot use a device by themselves. In terms of Essential Digital Skills for life, the UK average is 78% of people being able to do at least one task in each of the 5 skill areas. In Scotland, this is higher at 82%. This suggests that in Scotland more effort should be focused on interventions for those who lack the foundation skills and are considered ‘offline’.
Certain groups are more likely to lack foundation digital skills. Interventions should specifically target the following groups to help address disparity in digital inclusion: 75+, retired, no formal education, income under £17,000, and people with impairments.
Those that are online highlighted: email (89%); buying products/services (81%); online messaging (74%) and social media (71%) as the things they most often do online. Interestingly, the biggest increase in a specific activity was the 70-79 age group using the internet for learning, which rose from 32% in 2019 to 50% in 2020. This apparent interest in using the internet for learning should be a key factor for services supporting this age group to get online.
Motivation and attitudes
Motivation to get online remains a significant barrier to digital inclusion. 48% of those currently offline say that ‘nothing’ could get them to go online. There may be an assumption that the lockdown restrictions may have impacted on general motivation and necessity to get online, although it should not be assumed that this will apply to everyone. Other reasons for not getting online included privacy/security concerns (38%), spend money on other things (38%), worried about identity being stolen (36%) and having no interest (36%, down from 75% in 2019).
Things that would most likely help overcome some of these barriers included the ability to stop organisations from using personal data, having support from someone to help develop skills/confidence, cheaper devices, and having websites and apps that are easier to understand. Support to get people online should factor in clear messaging around data privacy and security, as well as ongoing informal support.
83% of people said that, on balance, the internet provided them with more benefits than disadvantages.
Implications of lockdown
There has been a lot of dialogue around the role of digital as an essential lifeline during lockdown. The implications of lockdown mean that there are likely to be more people digitally excluded as access to public Wi-Fi and community spaces such as libraries have been restricted. The report includes some snapshot data through tactical survey research.
78% of people agreed that the pandemic has escalated the need for digital skills, and 80% said that technology has been a vital support for them during this time.
When asked what people felt the most important skills since lockdown were, the most common response was video calls and social media (54%), followed by buying products and services online (47%). Only 36% reported that knowing how to stay safe online was the most important skill, which is an interesting contrast to data privacy being one of the main barriers for those who are offline. This is an important reflection for those providing digital skills support. Although we may not personally rate online safety very highly as an important skill, it’s an issue we should be addressing with new learners.
Managing health online has also seen a rise in interest since lockdown. In the main report, 66% of those online said that they didn’t feel that they benefited from managing their health online. The third of respondents that did find some form of benefit reported using YouTube videos for relaxation, online games to relieve stress and apps for meditation of fitness. Since lockdown, 37% agree that they have used technology more than usual to support their mental health and wellbeing.
The full report can be accessed here.