Digital Nation 2022 Sources
Good Things Foundation is the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity.
You can read our 2022-25 Strategy – Let’s Fix the Digital Divide for Good – here and find out more about our National Digital Inclusion Network, National Databank and National Device Bank.
About our Digital Nation series
Every year, in our Digital Nation series, we bring together the latest statistics on fixing the digital divide – drawing on national datasets and authoritative analysis. A full set of sources is provided in this document for reference and to support accessibility.
In our Digital Nation series, we use the image of a river separating two banks to convey the digital divide. The right bank (green) captures some of the benefits of being online and benefiting fully from using the internet. The left bank (shaded from red to amber) captures key data about digital exclusion. The use of shading on the left bank conveys an important message: digital exclusion is not binary – it is not a simple matter of ‘online’ or ‘offline’ but rather a spectrum. Over the last few years, we (and others) have become increasingly concerned about those who face significant exclusion (no access, no skills, no support) and also those who are ‘limited’ or ‘narrow’ internet users. For example, they may have a basic smartphone, but their access may be limited as a result of data poverty; and/or they lack the skills, confidence, motivation or support to use the internet for a wider range of purposes beyond messaging apps, social media or entertainment (for example).
Analysis of Ofcom data by Prof. Simeon Yates for Good Things Foundation provides the statistics represented on the map of the UK – contrasting the proportion of ‘extensive’ and ‘limited’ users (excluding non-users) by region. Unfortunately, limitations of national datasets mean it is not possible to provide a sub-region picture of internet use. Positively, there is lots of work underway to improve the quality of data on digital exclusion, inclusion and inequalities – including work to support targeting at a local level (such as the Digital Exclusion Risk Index (DERI) developed by Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and the Minimum Digital Living Standards feasibility study led by University of Liverpool).
For updates and more information
We plan to update Digital Nation 2022 following expected releases in November of the 2022 UK Consumer Digital Index (incorporating the 4th Essential Digital Skills Benchmark report) from Lloyds Banking Group and Nominet’s second Digital Youth Index.
If you would like to link to our Digital Nation 2022 visual or put a copy on your own website, please contact us so we help you do this: firstname.lastname@example.org
List of sources used in Digital Nation 2022
Cebr (2022), The economic impact of digital inclusion in the UK
Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2022), Not eating, heating or meeting bills: Managing a cost of living crisis on a low income
Lloyds Banking Group (2021), UK Consumer Digital Index report 2021 (next release due November 2022)
Lloyds Banking Group (2021), UK 3rd Essential Digital Skills Benchmark report (next release due November 2022)
NHS Digital (2021), NHS App turns three with 22 million users
Nominet (2021), The Digital Youth Index (next release due November 2022)
Ofcom (2022), Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes
Ofcom (2022), Affordability of communications services: September 2022 Update (see also previous reports).
Ofcom (2022), Online Nation 2022 Report
Richard, C (2022), ‘Finally, some proof that refurbished smartphones help save the planet’, Backmarket – summarises key findings from new and ongoing research by the French agency for ecological transition, ADEME.
Strand Partners (2022), Data Poverty Poll (an online survey conducted on behalf of Virgin Media O2. Fieldwork dates: 08.07.22 – 10.07.22).
Yates, S (2022), Types of UK internet users, Prof. Simeon Yates’ analysis of Ofcom data on internet use by adults (analysis for Good Things Foundation)
The top third of the Digital Nation 2022 visual is a horizon, with a map of the UK in the centre of the horizon.
Digital exclusion headlines
- 10m people lack the most basic digital skills. This is the proportion of adults who do not have all seven foundation-level digital skills, as defined in the government’s Essential Digital Skills framework. (Source: Lloyds Banking Group UK 3rd Essential Digital Skills Benchmark 2021; next release due November 2022).
- 1 in 20 UK households have no home internet access. This is the estimated proportion (6%) of UK households which still did not have access to the internet in March 2022 whether fixed line or broadband. (Ofcom, Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes). Ofcom estimates this equates to around 1.7 million households (+/- 200,000). A further 2% of adults aged 18+ had access to the internet at home but did not use it. This is the same proportion of UK households as in 2021. (Source: Ofcom 2022).
- 2m UK households struggle to afford internet access. This is based on Ofcom’s September 2022 update which reported that in July 2022, 29% of households said they had experienced an affordability issue with their communication services in the last month. This is around 8 million households and represents the highest levels since Ofcom began their affordability research. With regard to mobile data connectivity, 9% of households (ca 2.4 million households) reported affordability issues, while 5% of households reported affordability issues with fixed broadband (Ofcom, Affordability of Communications Services September 2022 Update report). This may increase over the winter months given pressures on wider household bills such as energy and food.
- 5.8m people still digitally excluded in 2032 without action. This is one of the key findings from new research by Cebr for Good Things Foundation (July 2022): The Economic Case for Digital Inclusion in the UK. Cebr estimates the number of people without basic digital skills in the UK has fallen from 12.4 million at the end of 2019 to an estimated 10.6 million by the end of 2022. However, without further intervention in building basic digital skills, Cebr estimates that 5.8 million people will remain digitally excluded by the end of 2032, of whom an estimated 3.7 million are aged 75 years or older. (Source: Cebr 2022).
Digital Inclusion headlines
- 30.8m people have high or very high levels of digital engagement. The UK Consumer Digital Index segments the population into Very Low, Low, High and Very High levels of digital engagement. (Source: Lloyds Banking Group UK Consumer Digital Index 2021; next release due November 2022).
- 22m people NHS App users. On 31 December 2021, NHS Digital announced that 22 million people had registered to use the NHS App, and it was one of the most downloaded UK apps in 2021. Being able to use digital services to book GP appointments or repeat prescriptions or find trusted health information is one of the benefits of digital inclusion. (Source: NHS Digital 2021).
- £9.48 ROI (return on investment) from basic digital skills support. This is one of the key findings from new research by Cebr for Good Things Foundation (July 2022): The Economic Case for Digital Inclusion in the UK. For every £1 invested in interventions to enable digitally excluded people to build their basic digital skills, a return of £9.48 is gained throughout the economy, with a returned Net Present Value of £12.2 billion. This reflects Cebr estimates that from 2023 to 2032, 470,000 people are expected to gain basic digital skills ‘organically’ (without formal training or intervention) each year. Allowing for 750,000 people to still lack or have lost their digital skills by the end of the 10 year period, Cebr estimate that 508,000 people – annually – will need intervention to build their basic digital skills if we are to achieve digital inclusion by 2032. Over the ten year period, the estimated total costs of providing this intervention sum to £1.4 billion, and the economic benefits accrue to £13.7 billion. (Source: Cebr 2022).
On the map, the statistics are taken from analysis of Ofcom’s latest data by Prof. Simeon Yates for Good Things Foundation. This is based on a cluster analysis of internet user types. On the map, the proportion of ‘limited’ (or narrow) internet users is presented (in red) and contrasted with the proportion of ‘extensive’ internet users (in green) by region. As explained earlier, limitations of national datasets mean it is not possible to provide a sub-region picture of internet use at this time. The statistics by region and nation (Source: Yates/Ofcom 2022) are:
- Scotland: 34.6% extensive users compared to 19.6% limited users.
- Wales: 35.2% extensive users compared to 19.2% limited users.
- Northern Ireland: 35.5% extensive users compared to 24.3% limited users.
- North East of England: 29.0% extensive users compared to 28.2% limited users.
- North West of England: 34.8% extensive users compared to 21.0% limited users.
- Yorkshire & Humberside: 30.1% extensive users compared to 16.4% limited users.
- West Midlands: 36.4% extensive users compared to 18.4% limited users.
- London: 49.3% extensive users compared to 12.5% limited users.
- East of England: 38.1% extensive users compared to 18.7% limited users.
- South East of England: 35.9% extensive users compared to 17.7% limited users.
- South West of England: 37.8% extensive users compared to 16.0% limited users.
Digital exclusion – left bank
The statistics used on the left (digitally excluded) bank highlight some of the characteristics of the population of ‘limited’ or ‘narrow’ users (which are broadly similar to characteristics of non-users, although older age is even more pronounced as a characteristic of non-users).
Characteristics of people facing digital exclusion
Drawing on a cluster analysis of internet user types using the latest Ofcom data by Prof. Simeon Yates for Good Things Foundation, we use three statistics to draw out differences between the characteristics of ‘extensive’ internet users compared to ‘limited’ users:
- Limited users are 10 times more likely to be over-65 years old than extensive users. (Source: Yates/Ofcom).
- Limited users are 4 times more likely to be from low income households than extensive users. (Source: Yates/Ofcom).
- Limited users are 8 times less likely to have a post-18 education than extensive users. (Source: Yates/Ofcom).
Digital exclusion is about not having the access, skills, confidence and motivation to be online and benefit from digital across many areas of life and work. This also includes online safety – including knowing what to do to protect yourself, and who to turn to if you experience online harms.
- 16% of 18-25s don’t have access to a laptop or desktop. (Source: Nominet Digital Youth Index 2021; new release due November 2022).
- 74% of mixed ethnicity and Black internet users faced potential online harm in the last 4 weeks (Source: Ofcom Online Nation 2022).
- 36% of working people lack the essential digital skill for work (Source: Lloyds Banking Group 3rd Essential Digital Skills Benchmark reprort 2021; new release due November 2022).
Reasons why people are not online
Reasons why people are unable to go online or choose not to do so are varied. Analysis of data gathered through Ofcom’s survey of non-users of the internet (one of a suite of data collected as part of the annual Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Survey 2022) by Prof. Simeon Yates includes the following (noting people could select more than one):
- 21% I’m not interested (it is noteworthy that the same proportion of people responded ‘someone else can go online for me if necessary’)
- 21% It’s too complicated (this covers responses around getting connected in the first place as well as ongoing use of the internet)
- 20% It’s too expensive (this includes responses around set up costs for broadband, ongoing costs of connectivity, and costs of buying equipment)
- 11% I’m worried about online safety (this includes responses around security, privacy and fraud, and concerns around harmful or offensive content).
Awareness is rising about ‘data poverty’ – which is when individuals, households or communities cannot afford sufficient, private and secure mobile or broadband data to meet their essential needs. Ending data poverty is now a major part of Good Things Foundation’s research and advocacy activities through our Data Poverty Lab with Nominet.
- 7m low income households are going without essentials. This means they had gone without enough food in the previous 30 days, or without at least one essential such as a warm enough home or basic toiletries because they can’t afford it, since the start of 2022. Poverty is the wider context for data poverty in the UK. (Source: Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2022 with Savanta ComRes. Survey conducted between 24.05.22 – 07.06.22. Low income household defined as having an income in the bottom 40% of all household incomes, adjusted for household size and composition).
- 3% households on Universal Credit are on a social tariff. Ofcom has asked each fixed broadband social tariff provider to confirm how many customers were on a social tariff. In Ofcom’s September 2022 update, the aggregated total is approximately 136,000 households as of August 2022. This represents an estimate of just 3.4% of UK households receiving Universal Credit. This is an improvement – uptake has doubled in the last six months – but the number remains small. Ofcom also reports that 72% of eligible customers do not think or do not know that a social tariff is aimed at them, even when they have broadband, are claiming government benefits and have a low household income. (Source: Ofcom Affordability of Communications Services September 2022 Update).
- 85% of low income adults say connectivity is essential in their lives. This finding is from an online survey with a nationally representative sample conducted on behalf of Virgin Media O2. ‘Low income adults’ were defined as adults with incomes less than £25,000 per year. (Source: Strand Partners 2022).
Digital inclusion – right bank
The statistics used on the right (digitally included) bank highlight some of the benefits of full digital inclusion for people’s lives – enabling people to be happier, healthier, better off and contributing to the UK economy overall. In this year’s Digital Nation 2022, following the launch of our new 2022-2025 strategy – Let’s Fix the Digital Divide for Good – we also set out how Good Things Foundation is helping to fix the digital divide in partnership with others. The three bridges which cross the divide also reflect the positive impact we want to help make happen in people’s lives and in communities through digital inclusion support.
Benefits of being online
The benefits of being online accrue across every aspect of people’s lives – including through staying connected with friends and family, being able to access essential services and support, improvements in earning power, and avoiding the ‘online poverty premium’ by being able to get better deals and savings online. There are also benefits for social and democratic participation more broadly, and to the UK economy and productivity. The statistics used in this section highlight some of these benefits.
- Better for the UK: £1.4bn invested in basic digital skills over next 10 years returns £12.2bn Net Present Value. This is one of the key findings from new research by Cebr for Good Things Foundation (July 2022): The Economic Case for Digital Inclusion in the UK. Cebr calculated a positive cost-benefit ratio of £9.48 return for every £1 invested in supporting 508,000 people annually to gain basic digital skills from 2023 to 2032. The Net Present Value of investment is £12.2 billion (2022 prices), applying a discount factor of 3.5% in line with HM Treasury Green Book 2022. The estimated total costs of intervention sum to £1.4 billion over ten years, with a returned Net Present Value of £12.2 billion. (Source: Cebr 2022).
The Lloyds Banking Group’s Consumer Digital Index and Essential Digital Index research provides valuable insights into how people use the internet and digital technologies, and how they feel this impacts on their lives more broadly and – for people who are working – on their working life and earnings, for example:
- I’m healthier. 49% of people say they manage their health and wellbeing online. (Source: Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2021; next release due November 2022).
- I’m happier. 85% of people say using the internet helps them connect better with friends and family. (Source: Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2021; next release due November 2022).
- I get better value. Those with the highest level of digital engagement pay £228 less per year on their bills than those with the least digital engagement. 67% of people also say it helps them save money and get better deals. (Source: Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2021; next release due November 2022).
- I’m better off. Manual workers with high or very high levels of digital engagement earn £421 per month (ca £5k per year) than manual workers with less digital engagement. (Source: Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2021; next release due November 2022).
How Good Things Foundation is helping to fix the digital divide – for good
Good Things Foundation is the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity. In May 2022, Good Things Foundation launched Let’s Fix the Digital Divide for Good – our Strategy 2022-25.
In this year’s Digital Nation 2022, we outline how we will help to achieve our one mission: to Fix the Digital Divide for good. This mission is our moonshot and it will require collaborative and innovative partnerships with many people, and many organisations, to succeed.
By the end of 2025, our ambition is to: engage 1 million people, helping them to benefit from the digital world; and support 5,000 Digital Inclusion Hubs across the nation to respond to local needs.
The three ‘bridges’ crossing the divide reflect the outcomes we want to help achieve.
Affordable Access: We want everyone to have the internet access they need.
Be able and safe online: We want everyone to feel able and safe in the online world.
Community Support: We want everyone to have somewhere local to go for help to use the internet.
To achieve our mission, we have developed a comprehensive service for digitally excluded people. An offer which any local organisation – anywhere in the UK – can use to help Fix the Digital Divide in their community. This is about building, together, a new social infrastructure to tackle digital exclusion.
National Digital Inclusion Network: This brings together everything we know about what makes digital inclusion work in communities. We will expand our Network so that excluded people in every community have the local help they need. Building and scaling what is already working, we will partner with national, regional and local charities, and all community organisations working with digitally excluded people. We will provide a simple package of support, training and resources that help them respond to their communities’ needs for digital skills and inclusion. This includes Learn My Way, Good Things Foundation’s community-focused learning platform for basic digital skills, designed to make building digital confidence easy.
National Databank: Building on the work of our Data Poverty Lab, we have, with Virgin Media O2, developed the pioneering National Databank, a world-leading ‘national food bank for connectivity data’, to help hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in communities across the UK to get connected. The National Databank provides at least 500,000 free SIMs and mobile data, distributed through the National Digital Inclusion Network, and includes data donated by O2, Vodafone and Three.
National Device Bank: Alongside the National Databank, we are establishing a National Device Bank supporting people who can’t get online because they can’t afford a device of their own, and also contributing to the circular economy. Innovating at scale, we are building a national hub that can take large donations of used digital devices from organisations in any sector, recycle or refurbish these, and distribute refurbished devices to people without home internet access through our National Digital Inclusion Network. We will also partner with local community refurbishing schemes so we add value to what is already happening. Scaling this will support sustainability – generating environmental as well as social impact.
Refurbishing can save 90% of CO2 emissions. A refurbished smartphone prevents 77.6 kg of carbon emissions, while producing only 7.61kg of CO2 emissions from end-to-end. A refurbished smartphone also saves 75,600 litres of water. This is a finding from research published earlier in 2022 by ADEME, the French agency for ecological transition, and reported alongside other key findings by Backmarket.
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