Digital inclusion stats and facts, June 2021

Data from Lloyds Consumer Digital Index 2021 ( )   unless otherwise indicated. 

This is a Digital Unite summary and commentary. 

Headline on Digital Exclusion 

  • 2.6m people are still completely offline.  
  • 20.5m people have Low or Very Low Digital Engagement. 

Those who are older, less affluent, unemployed, have some form of impairment are more likely to be digitally disadvantaged: 

  • 34% benefit claimants have disproportionate very low digital engagement  
  • People on incomes of less than £35,000 are more prone to larger decreases in digital engagement  
  • 31% of unemployed people have Low or Very Low digital capability 
  • While over 60s digital engagement overall has increased, older less affluent groups are more likely to make up the group who have decreased their engagement since last year. 

Digital inequality is further compounded by paradox: those who most need support are least inclined to seek it: “older age groups (typically requiring more digital support) are more reluctant (and under-indexed) to turn to any of the available areas of [digital skills] support. The same is true for those with Low or Very Low digital engagement.” 

More worrying still is that while digital engagement overall is an increasing trend, the digital divide is getting ever deeper.  

For those still offline, the barriers to engagement have increased since 2020: 26% people still don’t understand why they would want to go online and what they stand to gain, of which 47% cite a lack of interest (+11%). And a huge 50% say they think it’s too complicated (+18%) 

Headline on Digital Inclusion 

1.5m more people came online this past year, meaning 95% of the UK population are Internet connected. 60% of us have high levels of digital capability.  

The benefits of being digitally included – why people rate digital 

The Lloyds report evidences the benefits of being digitally included, competent and confident; we need to use the data to engage others, more, better and ongoingly.  

Here are the take outs: 

  • Managing everyday life: 77% of those online acknowledge that technology helps them in a number of ways, making their lives easier.  
  • Coping in a pandemic: 63% of people quarantining at home, have said they wouldn’t have coped without technology; 53% of people say they wouldn’t have coped through the Coronavirus crisis without digital technology.  
  • An antidote to isolation: 51% say the Internet helps them to feel less alone. 
  • Managing health and wellbeing: 37% of people say the Internet helps them manage and improve their physical health; 25% of people say the Internet helps them manage and improve their mental health. 
  • Results in savings: 67% say being online helps them to save money; the digitally engaged save an average of £228 per year on utilities compared to the least engaged. 
  • Increases earning: manual workers with High or Very High digital engagement earn £421 more per month than less digitally engaged peers, in the same roles. 
  • Essential for Employability: four in five (82%) job vacancies ask for digital skills. 92% businesses say that having a basic level of digital skills is important for employees at their organisation (Learning and Work, Exploring the Digital Skills Gap 2021
  • Stimulates learning and curiosity: 91% of those online plan to continue with their new online activities in the future. 38% of Internet users have engaged in e-learning for the first time or in new ways. 

Engaging people in learning by understanding motivation 

People are open to learning digital skills, but they need to understand why – they need to be able to see the benefits. Learning digital skills to improve work chances and/or productivity is important: 28% of people say they have upskilled themselves for work related reasons. 

This tells us that digital skills learning needs to be scenario and task orientated to capture attention and provoke engagement.  

It also tells us that up-skilling for work – be that finding a job or getting on better in an existing role – has great potential to engage digital skills learners: 

  • 77% would improve their digital skills if they thought it would directly help them with a day-to-day task or piece of work.  
  • 64% would prioritise digital skills if they knew it would help them progress in their job or secure a better role 

Stimulating and nourishing peer support 

The role of the informal Digital Friend and the more formal Digital Champion has never been clearer. Building the nation’s digital skills through informal (family and social) networks and through more formal peer networks at work supports scale and also sustainability of the endeavour. 

We must invest in supporting the supporters to cascade and consolidate digital skills:  

  • 66% would prefer to learn from friends, family or work colleagues 
  • 67% of people have said they would improve their digital skills if they knew there was support available when needed 

The majority (60%) of those who did not use the internet at home had asked someone else to do something for them online in the past year. (Ofcom Media Literacy 2021

40% of those offline want help from friends and family to get online 

Encouraging the role of the employer in supporting digital skills  

Employers have a big role to play in promoting and consolidating digital engagement and skills.  

Evidence suggests workers are receptive learning digital skills through work.  

Employers should also be thinking not just about supporting digital skills but about raising awareness of digital inclusion and digital engagement more broadly. This is a cultural piece.  

Benefits accrue to employers directly through the development of a digitally competent workforce and in their evolution as a digitally responsible business: 

  • 76%  businesses say that a lack of digital skills would affect the profitability of their business  (L&W) 
  • 57% said they’d like digital skills support through their employer 

Supporting people learn digital skills in the way they want to learn 

One of the most encouraging observations in the Lloyds Index was that those who are online are really engaged; they are planning to stay online.  

38% of them are learning online for the first time or in new ways. This is exciting – and what’s more the data tells us how they’d like to be supported to develop skills.  

Furthermore, these engaged users with a propensity to learn could be encouraged to support others. 

  • 91% of those online plan to continue with their new online activities in the future. 
  • 38% of Internet users have engaged in e-learning for the first time or in new ways 
  • 65% prefer to learn the content by reading user guides in their own time 
  • 93% like to learn by themselves by having a go themselves 
  • 80% want their digital skills learning delivered online