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Digital Future: the New Underclass

One in five people in Britain lack the digital skills they need to get by day-to-day. Dr Josie Barnard investigates who is affected and the consequences of being left behind.

Dr Josie Barnard investigates the deep social divides created by the digital world.

Whether booking a flight to go on holiday or ordering a takeaway, digital technology is so embedded in everyday life that it's easy to assume everyone is on a level playing field. Or that those who aren't are part of an older generation who didn't grow up with computers. But that's a dangerous assumption.

22% of the British population lack the digital skills they need to get by day-to-day. That's more than one in five people who struggle with signing their child up to school, filling in a tax return, or even using a smartphone to make a call. And as more and more essential services move online, falling behind the pace of change carries severe consequences.

For young people., the risks of being left behind are buried under the assumption that they are digital natives - that they have supposedly grown up with an innate ability to use digital technology. But as the number of smartphone-only households grows, millions of children are in danger of their digital world shrinking around a tiny touchscreen.

Dr Barnard asks if this is simply a question of affordability and motivation, or whether more complicated factors are at play. She speaks to people struggling to find space at public computer banks to complete their Universal Credit forms, and a group who are jumping hurdles to get online because of their severe dyslexia, and gets behind the screens of smartphone-only teenagers to find out how the kind of device and the way we use it can be just as detrimental as not having it at all.

Presenter: Dr Josie Barnard
Producer: Emma Barnaby
Executive Producer: Deborah Dudgeon

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Available now

28 minutes

Last on

Mon 9 Sep 2019 21:00


  • Tue 3 Sep 2019 11:00
  • Mon 9 Sep 2019 21:00