BSG report: Digital exclusion and the impact of COVID-19
The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) has published research on digital exclusion undertaken by the research consultancy Savanta ComRes. The research closely examines the attitudinal challenges that the UK faces in encouraging greater internet adoption by 3.6 million digitally excluded citizens, alongside the financial, and skills-based aptitudes.
30 respondents were interviewed about their lived experience during the first phase of the pandemic, with the responses suggesting that the UK may need to expand the scope of policy questions that relate to the pathways online.
- Internet adoption was primarily driven by social needs during lockdown restrictions and the physical separation from family and friends; with entertainment or online shopping purposes being more secondary drivers and benefits.
- Concerns surrounding the benefit and value of digital connectivity and a lack of digital skills were key contributors to digital exclusion, with responders citing inability to decipher the steps to go online or build the digital literacy skills required. However, notably, attitudinal factors related to a perceived lack of need contributed to digital exclusion, with some respondents not seeing the benefits of learning digital literacy skills.
- Respondents cited the negative aspects of being online, such as the ‘keyboard warrior syndrome’ linked to the rudeness of people who are compulsively wedded to their digital devices, as a reason for not adopting digital skills during lockdown. However, for some parents digital literacy was required for their children’s educational needs to do online classes and homework.
- On a more positive front, fears around scamming, digital fraud, and identify theft that online adopters held prior to going online pre-pandemic have proved unfounded, prompting many to be grateful that they had to develop digital literacy skills.
This report illustrates how varied the lived experience of our respondents has been during the late summer of the pandemic. It has highlighted some of the reasoning behind why some people are still choosing not to move online whilst others have been coaxed, cajoled, or coached online by friends and family. It also raises the question of what the overarching policy goals should be for the digitally excluded for whom the digital divide has become further widened as those online gain greater digital dexterity and economic gains.