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Digital exclusion

Digital exclusion (the inability to access online products or services or to use simple forms of digital technology (such as smart phones and tablets)) can contribute to loneliness and social isolation as well as making it difficult to access information and services and secure employment.[1]  In 2014, the government estimated that the number of people who have never been online is decreasing at three per cent a year, but the proportion of people who do not have basic digital capabilities has only been decreasing at about one per cent of the adult population per year.[2]

In 2018:

  • 90 per cent of adults in the UK were recent internet users, up from 89 per cent in 2017. 
  • 8.4 per cent of adults had never used the internet in 2018, down from 9.2 per cent in 2017. 
  • Virtually all adults aged 16 to 34 years were recent internet users (99 per cent) in 2018, compared with 44 per cent of adults aged 75 years and over.
  • 20 per cent of disabled adults had never used the internet in 2018, down from 22 per cent in 2017.[3]

In 2017 The Tech Partnership used a range of indicators to produce a 'heatmap' in which Herefordshire was rated ‘high’ for likelihood of overall digital exclusion.[4

One measure of digital exclusion comes from the Labour Force survey, which estimates that in the first quarter of 2018, 93 per cent of people aged 16 and over in Herefordshire had used the internet in the last three months; not significantly different from the UK as a whole, or the West Midlands region.  Since 2012 this figure has risen from 73 per cent.[5]  

More research is needed to identify digitally excluded households to support those who wish to learn digital skills, and to assess the impact of digital exclusion on access to services.

It is forecast that 90 per cent of all jobs will soon require some form of digital capability and the UK faces a major shortage of digital skills at all levels.  Common causes of digital exclusion are:

  • Skills and the confidence to use them.
  • Access to infrastructure, fast broadband and local amenities.
  • Cost including devices, broadband subscription or monthly fees for mobile data.
  • Motivation and the personal aspiration that makes gaining digital skills relevant and important.[6]

In Herefordshire, Fastershire is undertaking a variety of digital inclusion activities through the Faster Communities initiative.  This offers:

  • 'Introduction to the Internet’ training for organisations, groups and clubs at community venues to help increase digital skills and build confidence to go online.
  • Grant funding to support community groups, parish councils and other not-for-profit organisations to run projects to raise awareness of the benefits of using the internet and help people develop the skills to use it effectively.
  • Signposting to beginners’ IT/computer training provided by local organisations.
  • Bespoke support to parish councils to help them use digital to become more active and engaged with their local communities.
  • Bespoke training for care providers (nursing and residential care homes, and domiciliary/home care providers) on using social media to connect with their local communities and support marketing and recruitment.  

In July 2018 similar training was provided for voluntary/charity sector organisations in partnership with HVOSS.




[1] The role of digital exclusion in social exclusion, Martin, C., Hope, S. and Zubairi, S., Ipsos MORI Scotland, 2016.  Available at:

[2] Government Digital Inclusion Strategy, Cabinet Office, 2014.  Available at:

[3] Statistical Bulletin:  Internet Users, Office for National Statistics (ONS), 2018.  Available at:


[5] Internet Users, ONS, 2018.  Available at:

[6] Digital exclusion. The Tech Partnership, Available at:



Last updated: Tuesday, August 28, 2018