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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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New BBC research shows scale of Britain's digital divide

More than a fifth of all adults in the UK are still completely excluded from the internet, according to new research into ways of tackling Britain's digital divide, published by the BBC today.

Twenty-one per cent of all UK adults – over 10million people – do not use the internet at home or anywhere else. The Government has argued that these people are potentially at a disadvantage in terms of access to employment opportunities, public services, as well as cheaper shopping, utilities and financial services. Socially these adults may also miss out on the opportunities to connect with friends and family, access information, or pursue hobbies and interests.

Sixty-six per cent of people not online say they are simply not interested in the internet, 81% say they know little or nothing about it, and 74% say they are not confident in using a computer.

The findings suggest there are real and significant barriers for the Government and other agencies to overcome in order to achieve universal access.

The BBC has pledged to help people who want to get online using its strong relationship with audiences, and sharing research with organisations involved in increasing access as a key part of the Government's Digital Britain agenda.

Following detailed research to understand the reasons why people are not going online, the independent report commissioned by the BBC, Encouraging Home Broadband Adoption, highlights key actions that could help make a real difference:

  • Enlisting friends and family – many people who have recently got online say the persuasion, encouragement and support of friends and family was key. Mobilising family and friends as 'connection coaches' for those they know are not already online
  • Using internet-connected TV to make online services more accessible to people not accustomed to computers
  • Communicating the benefits of being online such as photo-sharing, hobbies, travel information, resources for children, shopping, and catch-up TV
  • Reassuring people that the internet is for them, can save them money and be fun
  • Alleviating cost constraints for those who need it.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson is hosting a major Online Access Forum today, where the BBC will share this research with all the key organisations working to get more people online. The forum will consider ways of using this evidence to target initiatives that will make a real difference to people who have been excluded until now.

Chaired by Gavin Esler, speakers include: Martha Lane Fox, the Government's Champion for Digital Inclusion; Helen Milner, Managing Director, UK Online Centres; Peter Barron, Director of Communications, Google; Simon Milner, Group Director, Industry Policy, BT; and the broadcaster Johnny Ball. The forum will also hear from members of the public who have just embarked on their own online journeys.

There will also be contributions from Terry Wogan, Kirsty Young, Jonathan Ross, Kirsty Wark, Kwame Kwei-Armah, members of the EastEnders cast and Blue Peter team about why getting online is so important.

BBC Online Access Champion, Seetha Kumar, said: "One of the internet's real strengths is that it is there for everyone, but still far too many people in Britain are missing out. By sharing this research we can help all those organisations involved in tackling the digital divide to make a real difference for people who want to get online.

"Inclusion is about enabling people to be part of our community. Or in other words, it's a wonderful way of opening up worlds, of communicating, and alleviating loneliness and exclusion and we're looking at what we can we do to help those who have never had the opportunity to use the web for simple day-to-day life-enhancing activities."

Notes to Editors

Bringing emerging technology to the widest possible audience is one of the BBC core public purposes and underpins our commitment to helping people with digital switchover, online access and media literacy.

Copies of the report: Encouraging Home Broadband Adoption undertaken by Essential Research and Ipsos Mori is available here: bbc.co.uk/medialiteracy, the BBC's new Media Literacy website where audiences can access information about using computers and the internet, understanding how the media, and in particular the BBC works, and also finding areas in which they can create their own content.

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