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UK Consumer Digital Index 2019 – Key Findings

1. Digital Britain – By 2030, it is forecast that 4.5 million (8%) of UK adults will remain Digitally Disengaged.

2. The Digitally Disadvantaged – 11.9 million people (22%) do not have the Essential Digital Skills needed for day-to-day life in the UK.

3. Skills in the Workforce – More than half of UK employees (53%) do not have the digital skills needed for work.

Digital Britain

Key findings

Since 2018, there are 1.8 million more people with the highest digital capability.

Overall there are more people online than ever but 37% of the UK are still at risk of being left behind

  • 31.5 million (62%) are Digital First (use multiple devices, shop and stream online, and prefer to manage money digitally)
  • 12.7 million (25%) are Digitally Competent (digital usage but prefer face to face support)
  • 6.1 million (12%) are Digitally Disengaged (little or no digital behaviours). This is down from 7.6 million (15%) in 2018

By 2030, it is forecast that 4.5 million (8%) UK adults will remain Digitally Disengaged

  • The proportion of offline UK citizens continues to decline (8% in 2019 vs. 9% in 2018)
  • There has been a 11% increase in the number of over 60s going online since 2018; this group are going online to shop

Compared to those with less digital capability, being Digital First creates both economic and social value

  • 75% are saving money online including paying up to 6% less a year for utilities
  • 84% connect with family and friends online
  • They are 1.7 times more likely to have improved their job prospects
  • 57% have improved their employability through being online
  • They are nearly twice as likely to have disposable income, with an extra £800 to spend per year (those with lower incomes who are Digital First are also more likely to have more disposable income)
  • 42% are managing their physical and mental health through being online

Call to action - Face into fears

While there are 1.8 million more people this year with the highest level of digital capability, over 11.9 million people lack Essential Digital Skills and 4.1 million people are offline. For the first time, predictive data modelling forecasts that if nothing is done, 4.5 million (8%) of the UK population will still be offline in 2030. The 2019 report also reveals that of the offline population who say ‘nothing’ could get them online, 89% also cited other blockers, of which cybersecurity and fraud concerns are the real leading barriers.

For those online, the new Essential Digital Skills measure provides a new detailed view on the specific areas where online safety and security can be improved. As one-fifth of the UK population cannot keep themselves safe online in the day-to-day, there is work to be done.

Larger organisations must not just ensure their use of online customer data and digital is compliant, but also communicate explicitly to customers that this is the case; in 2019, 55% of people are worried about the use of their online data. Technology such as biometric forms of ID could help to make the online on-boarding and security processes simpler, and also more accessible to people of all backgrounds and ages.

Consistent messaging is imperative and all partners should work together to deliver a public education campaign that both motivates and inspires the public to boost their digital skills, and helps them to understand how to stay safe.

The UK would benefit from a dedicated drive to increase demand for digital skills in the UK, to better equip people to face into their fears.

The Digitally Disadvantaged

Key findings

11.9 million people (22%) do not have the Essential Digital Skills needed for day-to-day life in the UK.

A further 19% of the UK can not do fundamental Foundation skills such as:

  • Six million (11%) cannot turn on a device
  • 7.1 million (13%) cannot open an app.

Cybersecurity concerns underpin ‘motivational barrier’

  • 4.1 million adults (8%) in the UK are offline. Three million (75%) of them report having no interest in being online, driven by cybersecurity fears and concerns.

Socio-economic factors influence digital behaviours

  • Almost half of the offline (48%) are under 60 years old, challenging the assumption that the offline are mostly elderly
  • Nearly half of the offline people (47%) come from a low income household
  • 16% of benefits claimants are Digitally Disengaged (down two percentage points since 2018)
  • The North East of England has consistently had the highest proportion of its population who are Digitally Disengaged – external research shows that this region has more young people not in education, employment or training, all factors which correlate to digital capability.

New – Spotlight on disability

  • People with a disability are 35% less likely to have Essential Digital Skills for life, but in the workplace they are equally skilled
  • Only 11% of people with a disability use assistive technology (screen readers etc.) when going online and one-fifth (21%) say there is no suitable technology for their condition to help them go online.

Call to action - Democratise Digital

With digital skills now categorised as essential, we must ensure that everyone has the same chances to gain adequate access to the extraordinary benefits of the internet. We must democratise digital to include the 700,000 young children who do not have the skills and devices they need to do their homework (CDI 2018).

People with impairments are more than twice as likely to be offline, and 21% say there is no suitable technology to help with their disability. We must enable the UK to be a level playing field to ensure the entire UK has an equitable and fair opportunity to prosper.

Complementary to the Index insight, we recommend industry and Government work together to undertake a full audit of skills provision across the whole country in order to establish where free skills opportunities are lacking.

An action plan for young people with ‘Digital Access for All’, and to work with innovators to unblock the lack of access to people with a disability. A comprehensive business case must be created to outline the economic, social and community benefits of digital to the economy to help drive pan-sector awareness and prioritisation of the topic.

Skills In The Workforce

Key findings

More than half of UK employees (53%) do not have the digital skills needed for work.

54% of the population uses the Internet to work, a 15% increase since 2018 (47%)

  • However, half of UK employees (53%) do not have the Essential Digital Skills needed for work (e.g. able to avoid suspicious links and pop-ups, share documents by attaching to an email, use online payments etc.)
  • One-third of the workforce lacks cybersecurity skills
  • 61% of people earning more than £25,000 have essential workplace skills, significantly higher than those earning less than £11,499 where only one-quarter have these skills
  • Employees from the manufacturing, construction, utilities and retail sectors are the least digitally skilled
  • West Midlands has the least digitally skilled workforce
  • Unemployed people are 64% more likely to lack Essential Digital Skills for life than the UK average (36% vs. 22%).

Only one-third (34%) of employees say their workplace gives them digital skills support

  • Working people are not taking the safety and security skills they are using day-to-day into their workplaces. 80% of people can do this life skill but only 66% apply this at work.

Call to action - Leverage the Levy

More than half of UK employees (53%) lack the Essential Digital Skills needed for work, and two-thirds of the UK workforce do not receive skills support from their workplaces.

One particular opportunity for employers is leveraging the Apprenticeship Levy. This will enable organisations to attract and retain talent by offering workplace Digital and Technology Apprenticeship qualifications to all people from the age of 16 and above. This levy can also be transferred to smaller organisations to help close the digital skills gaps. It is crucial that the UK's large employers drive societal change through their corporate scale, reach and influence.

Regional and national findings and case studies

The Consumer Digital Index key findings are provided at a regional and national level as well as local case studies.

Tools and resources - what can you do to make a difference

Links to useful tools, reports and resources to help action key findings.

Download the report

Read the 2019 UK Consumer Digital Index report for full details.

Download report (PDF)