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UK Consumer Digital Index 2020 – Key Findings

An estimated 9 million (16%) are unable to use the Internet and their device by themselves.

16% of the UK population cannot undertake Foundation digital activities such as turning on a device, connecting to Wi-Fi or opening an app by themselves. The behavioural data shows that 7% of the UK (3.6 million people) are almost completely offline and the attitudinal data reports that 8% have not used the Internet in the past three months, down from 11% in 2016. However, in the last twelve months, an estimated 1.2 million more people have developed Foundation skills meaning they are able to use the Internet and their devices by themselves.

c. 2.7 million (5%) people can access the Internet but lack the ability to use it to its full advantage; in total, an estimated 11.7 million (22%) people in the UK are without the skills needed for everyday life.

If these rates continue and trends remain the same, by 2030 one-quarter of the UK will still have a Very Low level of digital engagement.

Age remains the biggest indicator of whether an individual is online.

At a crucial time when digital can turn isolation into inclusion, the behavioural data shows that only 7% of over 70s are likely to have the capability to shop and manage their money online. In fact, 77% of this age group have Very Low digital engagement. It is not just the elderly who are under-equipped though; 52% of those offline are between 60 and 70 years old, and 44% of those offline are under the age of 60. Often, it is the most vulnerable and disadvantaged who are the most likely to be digitally excluded.

  • People with an impairment are 25% less likely to have the skills to access devices and get online by themselves
  • People with an annual household income of £50,000 or more are 40% more likely to have Foundation digital skills, than those earning less than £17,499
  • 4-in-10 benefit claimants have Very Low digital engagement.

Motivation is one of the key barriers to doing more online – over one-third of those offline say the Internet ‘doesn’t interest me’ and 48% of the digitally excluded state that ‘nothing’ could motivate them to get online.

The 2020 survey data indicates that for those offline, a lack of interest continues to be one of the biggest barriers to using the Internet. This apathy is most prevalent among the over 60s. While GDPR has reduced the worry for 23% of people since 2019, it has not completely allayed people’s fears about how organisations are using their data.

The least digitally engaged are at a real disadvantage. They are more likely to be paying higher household bills irrespective of income, household or age; for utilities alone, they are spending an average of over £348 more per year. They are also less likely to earn as much – the Index transactional and job role data indicates that, for example, digitally enabled manual workers are earning an average of £2,160 extra per annum.

As well as contributing to healthy bank balances, in light of COVID-19, digital interaction also plays a growing role in the ability to manage physical and mental health. With citizens of the UK staying at home to stay safe, technology has become a necessity for keeping connected, working remotely and accessing vital information. This is a challenge for the digitally disengaged isolating at home. Even for those online, two-thirds (66%) had not used the Internet or digital apps and tools to manage their health pre-COVID-19 (e.g. participating in online support groups etc.).

Digital skills can be a lifeline for people and are even more likely to be at this moment in time.

For people with high digital engagement, there are significant lifestyle and well-being benefits.

  • 87% say it helps them to connect better with friends and family
  • 84% say it helps them to organise their life
  • 55% say it makes them feel more part of a community
  • 44% say it helps them to manage physical and mental well-being.

Digital capability can also unlock people’s potential in their professional lives.

61% of highly digital citizens have used the Internet to successfully apply for a job and 71% say it has helped them to improve their future work prospects. With over two-thirds of roles now requiring digital capability of some kind, it is the digitally savvy who will pip others to the post.

The UK workforce is still digitally underpowered – support with confidence and capability could unlock productivity for UK Industry.

An estimated 17.1 million (52%) people in the workforce lack digital skills in the workplace; both they and their companies are missing out as a result. In the past twelve months, 100,000 more people have improved their digital skills at work, but c. 1.8 million people (5%) are still at the starting blocks with just the foundations of getting online.

Employers could do more, and may need more support, in order to effectively motivate and upskill their employees.

23% of the population have received digital skills training and support from their employer and only 10% of employees who have improved their skills, have been motivated to do so by their careers and workplaces.

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

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

Regional findings and case studies

The Consumer Digital Index key findings are provided at a regional level, along with local case studies.

Download the report

Read the 2020 UK Consumer Digital Index report for full details.

Download report (PDF)