Digital exclusion Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.Digital exclusion affects millions of UK citizens. Every day, people are unable to access the internet because they do not have the connection, device or skills to get online. This digital divide is undermining efforts to improve UK productivity, economic growth and socio-economic inclusion. Cost of living challenges are exacerbating the problem for the most financially vulnerable.

2.Our inquiry examined digital exclusion and what should be done to address it. It builds on a wealth of previous work.1 The question is not new, though the nature of the problem is becoming more complex and its consequences more acute. As the pace of technological change accelerates, the gap between included and excluded groups deepens and even those who can get by today may struggle in future. Digital inclusion is a moving target and achieving it will be an ongoing task.

3.We launched this inquiry to help the Government address this increasingly urgent challenge, exacerbated by the rising cost of living, and ensure some parts of society are not left behind as the world moves online. Our report focuses on the case for addressing digital exclusion (including the opportunities available and the risks of failing to act); the appropriate extent of Government and regulatory intervention; and priority actions to improve affordability, skills and access.

4.We took evidence from a range of witnesses; held roundtable discussions with businesses; and visited Skills Enterprise to see the work of community organisations and hear from those with experience of digital exclusion.

5.We are grateful to all those who participated in our inquiry. We hope our findings will support the Government and industry to address the most pressing issues in the months and years ahead.

Figure 1: Key figures

Sources: Cabinet Office, ‘Government Digital Inclusion Strategy’ (2014): [accessed 11 May 2023]; Ofcom, Connected Nations (2015): [accessed 7 June 2023]; Ofcom, Connected Nations (2022): [accessed 7 June 2023]; Ofcom, Media use (2022): [accessed 8 June 2023]; Lloyds Bank, 2022 Consumer Digital Index (2022) [accessed 16 May 2023]; Industrial Skills Council, ‘UK skills mismatch 2030’ (2019): https:/ [accessed 11 May 2023]; Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, ‘New Digital Strategy to make UK a global tech superpower’ (June 2022): [accessed 11 May 2023]; Citizens Advice, ‘One million lose broadband access as cost-of-living crisis bites’ (May 2023): [accessed 18 May 2023]

Box 1: Key terms

Device: electronic equipment used to connect to the internet, for example a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Digital skills: the Essential Digital Skills Framework by Lloyds Banking Group sets out different ways of categorising basic digital skills:

  • The Foundation Level involves the eight most fundamental tasks to set someone up for using the online world, for example turning on a device, entering login information, using a keyboard or locating a web browser.
  • The Essential Digital Skills for Life involves skills needed to navigate life online. This covers 26 tasks regarding communication, handling information and content, financial transactions, solving problems, and being safe online.
  • The Essential Digital Skills for Work involves 20 work tasks in five skill areas, for example using collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams; accessing information; accessing salary information; and completing digital records.
  • Connectivity: the availability of a suitable internet connection. This may be provided by fixed broadband or wireless internet services.

Source: Lloyds Bank, 2022 Consumer Digital Index (2022): [accessed 16 May 2023]

1 See for example Covid-19 Committee, Beyond Digital: Planning for a Hybrid World (1st report, Session 2019–21, HL Paper 263); Science and Technology Committee, Digital skills crisis (Second Report of Session 2016–17, HC Paper 270); Digital Poverty Alliance, National Delivery Plan (2023): [accessed 7 June 2023]; Digital Poverty Alliance, UK Digital Poverty Evidence Review (2022): [accessed 11 May 2022]; Ofcom, Digital exclusion review (2022): [accessed 11 May 2023]; Local Government Association, The role of councils in tackling digital exclusion (January 2023): [accessed 22 May 2023]

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