Policy paper

Government Digital Inclusion Strategy

Updated 4 December 2014

Foreword by Francis Maude MP

This is for everyone

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, one of the greatest British inventions thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Today, the web has 2.4 billion users worldwide. To put this incredible speed of adoption in some context, radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users, television took 13 years, web took 4 years and Facebook took just 10 months. In 2013, 89% of young people now use a smartphone or tablet to go online, up from 43% in 2010.

The web has transformed almost every aspect of public, private and work life. It has underpinned our new economy; from changing the way every workplace communicates to creating entire new industries. It is reshaping government through improved public services and improving transparency through open data.

And it has improved people’s lives, whether through cutting household bills, finding a job or maintaining contact with distant friends and relatives. For business and voluntary organisations, going online can provide ways to reach more customers and reduce operating costs. The internet also provides broader benefits, by helping to address wider social and economic issues like reducing isolation and improving health.

However recent research published by the BBC has found that 21% of Britain’s population lack the basic digital skills and capabilities required to realise the benefits of the internet. Around a third of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) don’t have a website, and when we include voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs) this figure rises to 50%. Independent analysts Booz and Co. estimate full digital take up could add £63 billion value to the UK economy.

In 2012, when Sir Tim’s achievement was recognised at the Olympics Opening Ceremony, his message to the world was unambiguous. This is for everyone.

If the government’s long-term plan is to build a stronger, more competitive economy and a fairer society, then we must ensure we honour this message.

This government is already investing in world class internet access and digital infrastructure, including public investment of over £1 billion to boost coverage of superfast broadband across the UK (to 95% of premises by 2017), and to connect businesses in our major cities.

However, to make sure the web is truly for everyone, we need to provide more than just access. We need to equip the whole country with the skills, motivation and trust to go online, be digitally capable and to make the most of the internet.

There is a lot of great work going on across the public, private and voluntary sectors to help people and organisations go online, but digital exclusion remains a big issue. Maintaining momentum is not enough.

We need to bring together and scale up our efforts, more than ever before. No single organisation can tackle this alone and only strong partnership across all sectors will succeed.

That is why the Digital Inclusion Strategy sets out 10 actions that not just government but also partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors will take to reduce digital exclusion.

The government and Go ON UK, the digital skills charity, will jointly lead a cross-sector partnership focused on delivering these actions that mean, by 2016, we will have reduced the number of people who are offline by 25%. And we will continue to do this every 2 years. If we succeed, by 2020 everyone who can be digitally capable, will be.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office

Executive summary

This strategy sets out how government and partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors will increase digital inclusion. This means helping people become capable of using and benefiting from the internet.

It fulfils the commitments we made in the government’s Information Economy Strategy and in the Government Digital Strategy Action 15.

However recent research published by the BBC has found that 21% of Britain’s population lack the basic digital skills and capabilities required to realise the benefits of the internet. Around a third of SMEs don’t have a website, and when we include VCSEs this figure rises to 50%. Just 28% of VCSEs have the skills to transact online.

Helping more people to go online can also help tackle wider social issues, support economic growth and close equality gaps.

This strategy says how we will work over the next 2 years to reduce the number of people without basic digital skills and capabilities by a quarter. At that point, we will review our approach to ensure we are on course to have everyone who can be online by 2020.

We believe that just under 10% of the adult population may never be able to gain basic digital capabilities, because of disabilities or basic literacy skills. Our approach to assisted digital will provide support to anyone who cannot access government’s digital services independently.

Through our user research and consultation, we have identified 4 main kinds of challenge that people face to going online:

  • access - the ability to actually go online and connect to the internet
  • skills - to be able to use the internet
  • motivation - knowing the reasons why using the internet is a good thing
  • trust - a fear of crime, or not knowing where to start to go online

Digital inclusion is about overcoming all of these challenges, not just one. Equally, with so many challenges, government cannot address this alone. The government and its partners already do a lot to help promote digital inclusion. But this is not joined up enough and having the impact it needs to.

To help people go online and benefit from the internet day to day, the Digital Inclusion Strategy focuses on:

  • stopping activity that adds little or no value, including fragmented government spending
  • providing greater support to those initiatives and organisations that make a difference
  • creating the environment for better, stronger joint working between people, business, charities and public sector

The strategy is for individuals and organisations involved in helping people develop their digital capabilities. This includes government departments and local councils. Some matters covered by the strategy are devolved and reference should be made to the devolved administrations for more details about how this strategy relates to them.

The actions in this strategy are about addressing the barriers that have stopped people going online until now and backing initiatives that will make things better.

We will:

Make digital inclusion part of wider government policy, programmes and digital services

Government will identify where increasing digital capability will improve policy outcomes and integrate it into relevant programmes. For each of the government exemplar services which are being transformed, government will publish information on the digital capabilities people need to use the service, current user capability profiles and the estimated number of offline users it has at present.

Establish a quality cross-government digital capability programme

Government will identify the type of support offline users across different government services need. It will use this to establish a cross-government digital capability and skills programme for people to learn how to use the government’s digital services.

Give all civil servants the digital capabilities to use and improve government services

Government will identify the digital capability civil servants need to do their jobs and provide services to users, map out what skills they have at present, then provide training where needed to fill any gaps.

Agree a common definition of digital skills and capabilities

All the partners in this strategy will use definitions that Go ON UK will consult on, agree and publish.

Boost Go ON UK’s partnership programme across the country

Go ON UK will extend its network to a wider group of partners from all sectors, coordinating a nationwide effort to reduce digital exclusion. Government will support this role and, together with public, private and VCSE partners, will sign up to the UK’s Digital Inclusion Charter and actively support each local programme.

Improve and extend partnership working

Government, public, private and voluntary sector partners will help fund and grow the initiatives that work, using expertise and resources from all partners to develop good ideas into national initiatives, aligned with Go ON UK’s partnership programme.

Create a shared language for digital inclusion

Go ON UK will provide guidance on digitally inclusive language and imagery, which government, public, private and voluntary sector partners will use in communications about digital access and services.

Bring digital capability support into one place

Go ON UK will establish digitalskills.com as a trusted source of information and advice on how to help people and organisations go online. Government and cross-sector partners will support these initiatives and encourage greater voluntary effort to support digital inclusion programmes.

Deliver a digital inclusion programme to support SMEs and VCSEs

Government and cross-sector partners will join together to build digital and data capabilities across these organisations, partnering with big business to secure pledges of support. Partners will also seek ways to make affordable hardware, software and infrastructure available to SMEs and VCSEs to improve digital access.

Use data to measure performance and improve what we do

We will bring together research to better understand what is working and how we can help those who do not have basic digital skills and capabilities. We will share best practice across sectors and set up a forum for digital inclusion across local government. We will publish the findings from this research regularly.

This strategy is just the beginning. We recognise that the changes required will be far from easy. Existing ways of working can get in the way, and many will need to change.

Oversight of this strategy will be provided by the Government’s Digital Leaders Network of senior civil servants and a new Digital Inclusion Delivery Board (bringing together the existing GDS Stakeholder Advisory Group and Go ON UK Operations Board). All members have signed a the UK Digital Inclusion Charter to promote and support our joint efforts to improve digital inclusion.

We will publish information on what we are doing to take this strategy forward through the Government Digital Strategy quarterly progress reports.

Introduction

This strategy sets out the 10 actions that government and partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors will take to reduce digital exclusion. This means helping people become capable of using and benefiting from the internet.

The strategy is for individuals and organisations involved in helping people develop their digital capabilities. This includes government departments and local councils. Some matters covered by the strategy are devolved and reference should be made to the devolved administrations for more details about how this strategy relates to them.

The government’s Information Economy Strategy called for greater focus on digital inclusion to:

  • help businesses make smart use of information technology and data
  • ensure citizens benefit from the digital age
  • underpin economic growth

The Government Digital Strategy Action 15 committed government to work with partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors to help people go online. The actions set out in this strategy say how we (cross sector partners) will work over the next 2 years towards our aim of reducing the number of people without basic digital skills and capabilities by 25%. At that point, we will review our approach to ensure we are on course to have everyone who can be online by 2020.

We will implement this strategy with partners who have signed the UK Digital Inclusion Charter, including Go ON UK, the UK Digital Skills Alliance chaired by Baroness Lane-Fox.

Go ON UK will coordinate activity across the private and voluntary sector, working closely with the Government Digital Service (GDS) in the Cabinet Office, who will lead and coordinate on behalf of government.

If we succeed, by 2020 everyone who can be digitally capable will be.

What this strategy is about

Digital inclusion, or rather, reducing digital exclusion, is about making sure that people have the capability to use the internet to do things that benefit them day to day - whether they be individuals, SMEs or VCSE organisations.

Digital inclusion is often defined in terms of:

  • Digital skills - being able to use computers and the internet. This is important, but a lack of digital skills is not necessarily the only, or the biggest, barrier people face.
  • Connectivity - and access to the internet. People need the right infrastructure but that is only the start.
  • Accessibility - services should be designed to meet all users’ needs, including those dependent on assistive technology to access digital services. Accessibility is a barrier for many people, but digital inclusion is broader.

Each of these definitions addresses a single specific barrier that some, but not all, people and organisations face. There is seldom just one reason why people are digitally excluded, and there is no single approach to solving it.

Digital inclusion is about overcoming all of these challenges, not just one. Equally, with so many challenges, government cannot address digital exclusion alone.

The actions in this strategy are about addressing the barriers that have stopped people going online until now and backing initiatives that will make things better.

How the strategy was developed

The Digital Inclusion Strategy has been developed around the needs of users, people who do not have the capability to use the internet.

GDS consulted the public on a checklist for digital inclusion throughout January 2014 to understand what works and developed the strategy with partners.

Benefits

Being digitally capable can make a significant difference to individuals and organisations day to day. For individuals, this can mean cutting household bills, finding a job, or maintaining contact with distant friends and relatives. For organisations, going online can provide ways to reach more customers and reduce operating costs. The internet also provides broader benefits, by helping to address wider social and economic issues like reducing isolation and supporting economic growth.

The economy

The internet and digital services are an important part of the UK economy. The government’s information economy strategy, which sets out how the UK can make the most of the internet, estimated that this sector contributed £58 billion to the economy in 2011.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimated that during 2011, UK consumers spent £68.2 billion on the internet, which is twice the average for OECD countries. This year, UK consumers are forecast to spend £107 billion online, an increase of 17% year on year.

Booz & Company, a management consulting firm, estimated that if everyone in the UK was able to go online, it would add another £63 billion to the economy.

People

Digital services are becoming the default option for accessing public services, information, entertainment and each other. In 2013, 36 million adults (73%) in Britain accessed the internet every day. Those who are offline and not capable of using the internet risk missing out on the benefits that the internet can offer.

For individuals, this can mean reduced costs of living. Households offline are missing out on savings of £560 per year from shopping and paying bills online, or being able to keep in touch with family members and friends.

The internet also provides improved job prospects as being digitally capable is critical in finding and securing a job.

Similarly, reducing digital exclusion can help address many wider equality, social, health and wellbeing issues such as isolation. 81% of people over 55 say being online makes them feel part of modern society and less lonely.

SMEs and VCSEs

Some SMEs and charities face a number of challenges to going online. While many are getting online, 11% of organisations say they have no internet access at all. Those who aren’t making full use of the internet are missing an £18.8 billion opportunity. Organisations need to be online and building digital capabilities if they wish to grow their customer base, access international markets or work with large businesses.

Over £2.4 billion of charitable donations (26% of the total donated in 2011 to 12) were made online, making access to this donor base vital for VCSEs.

Government

The benefits of helping people go online extend beyond individuals, SMEs and VCSEs. Making government services digital by default is more efficient and convenient. The digital efficiency report showed that the cost of digital transactions is almost 20 times lower than telephone and 50 times lower than face to face. For government, going digital by default will save the taxpayer £1.2 billion by Spring 2015.

So we all have a lot to gain from helping people go online.

Challenges

Everybody has their own reasons for not being online. We’ve been working with users, support organisations, government departments, local councils and partners from across the public, private and voluntary sector to understand what these might be.

There are 4 main kinds of challenge people face:

  • access - the ability to actually go online and connect to the internet
  • skills - to be able to use the internet
  • motivation - knowing the reasons why using the internet is a good thing
  • trust - the risk of crime, or not knowing where to start to go online

Looking at each in more detail, we can see that digital exclusion involves some significant and wide ranging challenges. When someone has the access, skills, motivation and trust to go online to do things that benefit them day to day, they are digitally capable.

The challenges that people face

Access Skills Motivation Trust
Accessibility Literacy skills Risks Identity
Location Digital skills Necessity Security
Cost Security skills Financial benefits Standards
Technology Confidence Social benefits Reputation
Infrastructure   Health and wellbeing benefits  
Language      

Annex 1 provides more detail on these challenges.

Each digitally excluded person has their own individual set of circumstances. Not everyone is affected by every challenge listed, but they will be by at least one, maybe more.

Access affects a lot of people, as do skills. However, when asked what ‘the most important reason’ for not being online is, 62% of people say that they are ‘not interested’. Although not all people are worried about trust issues, nearly 36% of people are worried about privacy.

SMEs and VCSEs

The challenges faced by SMEs and VCSEs are broadly similar to those of individuals. For organisations taking their first steps to go online, they can also face wider challenges such as needing to reorganising business processes and systems to benefit from going digital. Not having the right skills and capabilities, such as specialist IT knowledge or understanding where to go for the right advice on security can also stop organisations going online.

A quarter of VCSEs feel that the internet isn’t relevant to them, while over a third of SMEs and VCSEs only use their website for promotion, not selling goods and services. 11% claim they did not use the internet or had no access to the internet at all, but only 2% say that getting an internet connection is a challenge. Just 28% of VCSEs have the skills to transact online.

For SMEs and VCSEs like individuals the biggest challenge is motivation and making the internet relevant to their organisation. Past experiences and a lack of digital skills or capabilities reinforce this attitude. To be able to benefit from going online means being able to overcome all the challenges of access, skills motivation and trust.

What we want to do

Existing efforts and natural changes in the population mean that the number of people who have never been online is decreasing at 3% per year. However, having been online does not mean that people are digitally capable and able to benefit from the internet. The number of people who are digitally capable is declining at a far slower pace. It is not an exact science, but from existing research and statistics, we believe that the number of people who do not have basic digital capabilities has been decreasing at about 1% of the adult population per year.

If this trend continues, by April 2016 the number of people lacking basic digital capability would fall from 11 million to 9.9 million (from 21% to 19% of the population).

Our ambition, working with cross-sector partners to deliver the actions set out in this strategy, is that by April 2016, we will have reduced the number of people lacking digital capability by 25%. This means that 2.7 million more people will be online. By April 2016, we want to have fewer than 8.3 million people (16% of the adult population) offline.

Our ambition is aligned with Go ON UK’s partnership programme, which aims to reach the whole of the UK in 2 years, boosting local digital skills and capabilities and reducing digital exclusion by 25% in each area.

We will continue to reduce the number of people offline by 25% every 2 years, meaning that, in April 2018, we expect fewer than 6.2 million people (12% of the adult population) to be offline. And by 2020, we will have reduced the number of people who lack basic digital skills to around 4.7 million (less than 10% of the adult population).

The difference we want to make
Year Our ambition Current trends
2014 21% 21%
2016 16% 19%
2018 12% 17%
2020 9% 15%

Those who may never go online

As the number of people offline decreases over time, those remaining become increasingly difficult to support. 5% of the adult population do not have basic literacy skills (2.6 million people), making using the internet a bigger problem for this group. We will continue to support wider government programmes aimed at improving overall literacy levels by integrating digital skills into adult learning and helping reduce this number further.

There are also groups in society who choose not to use the internet, in some cases for religious reasons.

Some people who cannot use the internet can still benefit from digital, and use assistive technologies to help address other challenges they face. This group may never go online.

As a result of the above, we believe that between 3.5 to 4 million people (6.8% to 7.9% of the adult population) may never have basic digital capabilities.

Where people cannot use government digital services independently, we have set up assisted digital routes so no one is left behind. Offline assistance will always be there for those who need it.

People who are digitally excluded

Being able to go online does not mean that people have the basic digital capability to use the internet to do things that benefit them day to day. According to the BBC Media Literacy study, 21% of people can’t use the web. 14% of people don’t have internet access at all, so 7% do have internet access but don’t use it in ways that benefit them day to day.

This is a higher figure than the 18% referred to in the GDS Digital Landscape Research published in November 2012, but it reflects our growing understanding of what it means to be digitally excluded.

Vulnerable and disadvantaged groups

Digital exclusion affects some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society:

There are other groups who have a higher tendency to be digitally excluded such as offenders and ex-offenders. Their risk of reoffending drops significantly when digital skills, training and support is used to complement existing approaches. 21% needed help with maths, reading and writing, 41% with their education, and 40% to help improve their work related skills.

For all of these groups, adult digital and literacy skills are a sizeable challenge. Being able to improve adult digital and literacy skills is at the heart of reducing digital exclusion and helping people go online.

Businesses and organisations

It isn’t just individuals that don’t use the internet. Many organisations are missing out too.

Only around a third of SMEs don’t have a website. Lloyds Bank research highlighted that when we include VCSEs this figure rises to 50%. When taken together, only around a fifth of SMEs and VCSEs allow their customers to purchase products and services through their website. 38% of SMEs who were newly connected to broadband saw an increase in sales, 24% from new overseas trade. Those SMEs who use digital as part of their business processes have 22% higher revenue growth than those with low or no use of the internet as well as experiencing an estimated 10% increase in productivity

Just 28% of VCSEs have the skills to transact online. Charities that can accept donations online, saw a 27% increase in the number of donations they receive. Being able to use online tools is really important to VCSEs too. In 2013, £2.5 million was raised online from 3.7 million Tweets through social media service Twitter and Just Giving. This was an increase of 448% on 2011.

Being able to make use of the internet is imperative for SMEs and VCSEs to survive and grow.

What is being done at the moment

Digital exclusion is not a new issue. Organisations from across the public, private and VCSE sectors are already doing a lot to help people benefit from the internet. Significant investment and energy have been put into trying to fix specific problems.

Some examples of the many programmes are:

Private sector

Private sector organisations provide support through Corporate Responsibility (CR) programmes, raising awareness of the benefits of going online, offering lower cost services and providing support for individuals and organisations in building their trust, motivation and skills to go online.

  • BT’s Get IT together campaign is one example of business providing support and guidance to those offline. Working with Citizens Online, BT’s national Get IT together campaign provides older people, the disabled and job seekers with access to the internet, skills training and advice tailored to individuals needs.

  • Advances in technology have reduced the cost of using the internet and mobile technology, such as low cost tablets from Tesco, Argos and many others. This helps improve accessibility too. Over half of UK adults have a smartphone and through pay as you go contracts and reduced costs of handsets, mobile is fast becoming the default option for accessing the internet.

  • The Business Exchange, developed by Enterprise Nation in conjunction with government, brings together pledges from many big businesses including Facebook, Virgin Group and Microsoft to support SMEs, including building their digital capabilities. Microsoft, and many other software providers, also offer reduced cost and free software for VCSE organisations.

  • Google Juice Bars aimed at SMEs, while their Grow Your Charity Online initiative, partnering with the Media Trust and Technology Trust, supports VCSEs. EE Techy Tea Parties provide direct support for developing digital capabilities. Through the Get Connected campaign, the Post Office (one of Go ON UKs founding partners) is helping customers gain skills and capabilities to benefit from the internet.

Voluntary, community and social enterprise sector

There are many options available to people who want to learn and develop their digital capability.

  • Digital inclusion charities such as Citizens Online and the social enterprise Tinder Foundation provide front-line support to individuals seeking to gain digital skills. Tinder Foundation supports a network of over 5,000 UK Online Centres, based in libraries, community centres and social housing.

  • Other VCSE organisations including housing associations, trade unions and cause-specific charities such as Age UK provide tailored access, support and skills training for those offline. Similarly, organisations such as the BBC, Ofcom, the Technology Trust, Digital Unite and Local Government Association, plus many other representative bodies have a huge role to play in understanding, sharing and growing support for digital inclusion.

Go ON UK

Go ON UK is the UK’s Digital Skills Alliance. Working across the whole of the UK, they aim to inspire and support people and organisations that want to help others build their digital capability. They focus on bringing together expertise and efforts from across sectors to work on local problems, rather than providing services directly themselves.

  • Building on the success of Race Online 2012, Go ON UK has launched a partnership programme in the North East and are extending this approach to Northern Ireland in April 2014. Go On UK’s approach brings together partners locally to build momentum and find new ways to help individuals, SMEs and VCSEs go online. Go ON UK will be continually developing and growing this approach across the whole of the UK over the next 2 years.

  • Go ON UK are also developing a website called digitalskills.com to provide a single source of information, resources and guidance for people and organisations looking to go online, or to help others to take their first steps. digitalskills.com is in public beta (a service being used by the public, but still being improved) and is supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Central government

Government support for digital inclusion aims to overcome all of the challenges faced by those offline, or without basic digital capability.

Access

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme will ensure that 95% of UK premises have access to superfast broadband by 2017, supported by specific initiatives such as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) aimed at helping those hardest to reach. DCMS has also launched a £10 million fund to find new ways to support the 5% of rural areas who will not have high speed internet access. Initiatives such as Connection Vouchers provide subsidies to SMEs and VCSEs who want to cover the cost of a high speed internet connection or upgrade existing internet connections to improve their broadband speed or get started with superfast broadband.

Cross-departmental initiatives, such as the Digital Deal supported by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), managed by Tinder Foundation, are helping to improve internet access and digital capability within social housing. Universal Credit will see a change in the way individuals get benefits, making it an online transaction. This includes how housing benefit is paid. Housing associations are working to ensure tenants are able to use the internet to access Universal Credit and claim their benefits. The Digital Deal helps boost good ideas for improving digital skills, access and support through a matched funding scheme and 12 projects are being implemented across the country.

The government’s 25 exemplar projects, led by GDS and departments are providing simpler, clearer and faster digital services to the public. Building services around the needs of users, not the government, will allow more people to access and use government services. The government’s approach to assisted digital will also provide support to people who are unable to use government digital services independently.

Skills

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) gives funding to organisations providing digital skills and support to individuals, SMEs and VCSEs looking to learn how to make use of the internet. The Tinder Foundation, who have also received support from NHS England and the DWP, is one such organisation.

BIS is also working with Go ON UK to help deliver the Information Economy Strategy’s commitment to help provide 1.6 million SMEs with the digital skills to transact online over the next 5 years. Go ON UK recently launched a North East pilot. The results will help shape the partnership programme nationally. BIS has also supported the development of SME elements of digitalskills.com.

The Skills Funding Agency, an executive agency of BIS, was granted £2.5 billion in 2013-2014 for the adult skills budget. Government priorities for the budget remain to provide Traineeships, Apprenticeships, english and maths; and for all learners to increase their skills, competence and knowledge. The Skills Funding Agency supports numerous digital skills initiatives to help offer a range of courses and means of accessing the internet to the public.

NHS England is working with the Department for Health and Tinder Foundation on a Widening Digital Participation Programme, to encourage marginalised groups, often the heaviest users of the health and care system to use the internet to improve the quality and availability of care.

Businesses and organisations

Supporting SMEs and VCSEs in developing digital capabilities is a priority for both BIS and Cabinet Office. The Regional Growth Fund provides one way of helping grow SMEs, with over 3,400 SMEs receiving cash support, including help to improve digital capabilities. Small Business: GREAT Ambition, the government’s commitment to making it easier for small businesses to grow, also set out what government is doing to help businesses boost their online presence and make the most of opportunities to trade online. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills, supported by DWP, BIS, HM Treasury, Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland, the Scottish Government and Welsh Government, invests in resources to support SMEs, charities and voluntary organisations to invest in digital skills and capabilities needed to develop and grow their own business.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has provided £400 million support to local communities, supporting economic growth by growing local enterprise zones, through local digital skills and capabilities programmes, reduced access costs and establishing stronger networks between businesses.

Local government

Local government provides a range of innovative services to support digital capabilities including affordable access to social housing tenants, digital buddies schemes to help those offline to learn how to use the internet, and internet access and training in libraries and council offices.

For SMEs, local partners are already working together to provide digital skills advice and support for example through growth hubs such as Manchester and Cumbria, and local broadband delivery projects such as Go Digital Newcastle.

The wide range of support services, skills programmes and initiatives have not managed to help everyone go online. Isolated and disjointed initiatives to combat digital exclusion have not made the most of our combined efforts and expertise.

Although competition is good, it is sometimes stopping people and organisations from working together to give people the best possible support. Organisations are trying to meet the needs of those funding support, rather than the needs of users. This can be confusing for those looking for support. In order to help people go online for the long-term, and be able to use the internet in a way that benefits them day to day, we have to change how we work and what we do to make it simpler and easier for people to get support.

Checklist for getting people online

The challenges of going online are complex. To help manage these challenges, GDS published a checklist for digital inclusion, providing a best practice guide on how to help people and organisations go and stay online. Too often people overcome one barrier and then face another that stops them using the internet. For example, they might get access to the internet, but due to past experiences such as viruses or spam, might not trust and therefore use the internet in a way that helps them day to day. Following the checklist ensures that we help people overcome all the challenges that stop them going online and supports them for the long-term.

Importantly, we cannot overcome all of these challenges alone. For some, like infrastructure, we know what needs to happen to help people go online and we are doing it through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s broadband delivery programme. However, the softer issues like skills, motivation and trust are more complex and need more than government to overcome them.

We all, individuals and organisations, have a role in helping people overcome these challenges.

Measuring digital exclusion

To show what this means in practice we have developed 2 digital inclusion scales. The scale for individuals has been developed using GDS’ Digital Landscape Research and data from the BBC and Office of National Statistics (ONS); and we have worked alongside Go ON UK and Lloyds Bank to develop a similar scale (Lloyds Business Digital Index - a digital inclusion scale for SMEs and VCSEs in the UK).

For the first time in the UK, we are able to measure and compare levels of digital exclusion for individuals and organisations. Because of the way the different challenges affect individuals compared to organisations, the scale used for SMEs and VCSEs differs a little from the individuals’ one.

A digital inclusion scale for individuals

The digital inclusion scale for individuals has 9 points. It ranges from those people who may have consciously decided not to use the internet and therefore never have been online and never will, to experts whose primary income comes from online services. Basic digital skills, at point 7, is the minimum capability that people need to have in order to use the internet effectively.

It allows us to see the types of challenges people face and how we can help them move to the position of having basic digital capabilities (and beyond).

The scale also lets us plot users’ level of digital capability against the level of capability they need to use a particular digital service such as renewing a driving licence or banking online.

Digital inclusion scale for individuals
Digital inclusion scale for individuals

Annex 2 provides further details on the digital inclusion scale for individuals.

The scale will help track national progress on reducing digital exclusion. This will help us know where we’ve made a big difference and where we might need to change what we do. We will continue to use data published by the BBC, ONS and our own cross-government research to make sure we are on track.

We will measure our success using the scale below as our baseline (based on BBC research October 2013). We will measure our success and track progress using the BBC’s annual survey as our baseline. The next survey will be published in October 2014 and the BBC’s interim reports will give us an update during the year.

UK population digital inclusion scale

Applying the scale to government digital services

This scale also provides a way for us to track how well we are doing towards government’s digital by default ambition, which is to develop digital services that are so straightforward and convenient that all those who can use them will choose to do so.

We will use the digital inclusion scale to understand what support users of government services need and how government can help people go online. For example, GDS have begun to map users of the carers allowance transformation exemplar on the digital inclusion scale. Initial research showed that 44% of carers allowance applicants reported having no access to the internet and 23% did not have the skills or confidence to complete the online forms.

The scale below the digital capabilities for a sample of users of the carers allowance services against the digital inclusion scale and the level of digital capabilities they need to use the current exemplar digital service.

Claim Carer's Allowance exemplar

The carers allowance example shows how important it is that we build services that people can use and give people the skills and capability to use them.

One of the actions of the strategy will see each of the government’s 25 exemplar transformation programmes mapped against the digital inclusion scale.

This will help show where services are currently quite difficult for some people to use and where we should look to make our digital services easier to use. If that is not feasible people may need assisted digital support to be able to use our digital services.

A digital index for SMEs and VCSEs

Lloyds Bank, one of the founding partners of Go On UK, have been working with Accenture, a management consulting firm, to understand the digital maturity (a business term for an organisation’s digital capability) of SMEs and VCSEs in the UK.

Their index, which provides a way of measuring and tracking organisations digital capabilities, can be found on page 11 of their report.

Digital maturity involves a number of factors including digital infrastructure, being able to buy and sell online, handling enquiries, internet security and the use of digital advertising and communications to support an organisation’s work.

The index benchmarks the stage of digital development of SMEs and charities in the UK. Lloyds Bank’s analysis shows a wide spectrum of benchmark scores ranging from ‘low’ through ‘medium’ to ‘high’ digital maturity. The scale allows organisations and those helping SMEs and VCSEs grow their digital capabilities to assess what support they need. Lloyds Bank will review and publish the SME and VCSE digital index every year.

Firms are spread across 7 distinct segments from ‘disconnected’ at the lower end to ’innovators’ at the top. These are relatively evenly distributed across the population, each accounting for between 12% and 17% of the organisations surveyed. There are fewer categories for organisations than for individuals because their behaviours differ; for example, organisations are less likely to start using the internet then lapse, or to wish to go online but be unable to do so.

The average digital maturity for SMEs and VCSEs in the UK in 2014 is set at 100. Organisations above are actively using digital and the internet to benefit their business. Those below are not.

Many of the actions set out in this strategy aim to support those organisations who do not meet average digital maturity (under 100 on the index).

Actions

Nobody can solve the challenges of digital exclusion alone. We also can’t solve everything at once. Considerable time and resources have already gone into helping people go online, but unquestioningly doing more of the same, or just throwing money at the problem, won’t solve it.

Using the checklist for digital inclusion as our guide, we have shaped the digital inclusion strategy to make sure we are doing what works to help people develop their digital skills and capabilities. We’ve focused on:

  • stopping activity that adds little or no value, including fragmented government spending
  • providing greater support to those initiatives and organisations that make a difference
  • creating the environment for better, stronger joint working between people, business, charities and public sector

Not all actions will be led by government. We will do the things that only government can do - for example, making sure all civil servants have the basic digital skills and making digital inclusion part of wider government policies and programmes.

GDS will lead on the implementation of the Digital Inclusion Strategy on behalf of government.

Working with Go ON UK

Government is working with Go ON UK because they can complement what we do. Go ON UK is evolving to become a fully independent, charitable organisation that can influence and establish partnership between private and public sector organisations committed to finding innovative ways to tackle digital exclusion. By pooling resources so that government coordinates and builds on its efforts and Go ON UK brings together and helps coordinate the work of private and voluntary sector partners, we can reach a wider audience and make best use of our joint skills and experience. Go ON UK is not a delivery organisation though the Digital Inclusion Delivery Board will bring together expertise to have the greatest impact. No other organisation has this wide a national agenda on digital inclusion.

Go ON UK, alongside current and future signatories of the UK Digital Inclusion Charter, will work together with government to deliver actions in the digital inclusion strategy through sharing their expertise and their detailed local knowledge of different organisations, communities and individuals who need support.

Three of the 10 actions are focused on government activity and will be led by relevant departments. The remaining 7 actions need everyone to work together and will be led by partners, with the support of government.

Some of the actions we are taking are still in development. We want and need to do more to understand people’s needs and how to make good ideas work better.

As our understanding of digital inclusion develops, so will the actions we take. As new data gives us evidence on what works and where we should focus our efforts, we will adapt what we do.

In implementing this strategy, the government will continue to work closely with devolved administrations to ensure UK wide activities complement existing successful activities in the nations.

The 10 actions will be delivered over the next 2 years. At that time, we will assess what we have achieved and review our approach based on what has worked.

Action 1. Make digital inclusion part of wider government policy, programmes and digital services

Digital capability is vital - both to help achieve wider policy outcomes such as improving employment, health and well-being, and economic growth, and also to enable people to use government digital services.

It is vital that government services are designed not just to be digital, but also in a way that helps people develop the digital capability to use them. Service Managers, digital delivery teams and policy professionals will design services in this way by understanding the current capabilities of their service users and the skills levels needed to use their service. Digital inclusion is already covered within the Digital by Default Service Standard. GDS will build on this by embedding guidance into the Government Service Design Manual and in specialist digital training courses.

Each department will link digital inclusion into their wider policy programmes and digital services.

GDS will:

  • support departments in identifying opportunities to use digital inclusion to improve policy outcomes
  • include guidance on supporting users who lack digital capability within the Government Service Design Manual and Service Manager training; including, how to simplify and standardise the basic digital capability needed to access digital services
  • publish digital inclusion scales for each exemplar service on the performance platform, including the digital capabilities required to use the service, current user capability profiles and estimated number of offline users for each
  • make digital capability building a core requirement for providers of assisted digital services

Departments will:

  • identify where increasing digital capability will improve policy outcomes and integrate it into relevant programmes
  • publish commitments in departmental digital strategies
  • publish information on the performance platform on digital capability requirements for all new or redesigned digital government services against the digital inclusion scale from July 2014, the estimated number of offline users for each, and, where appropriate the support being provided to develop users’ digital capability

Departments have already identified particular programmes where digital inclusion can play an important role in helping government achieve its policy outcomes. These include:

Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will:

  • improve the digital capability of job seekers by simplifying access to resources and support through jobcentre plus; specifically, access to digitalskills.com

Department for Work and Pensions will:

  • use the Universal Credit Local Support Services Framework to encourage social housing providers and their partners to provide low cost access, equipment and skills training to residents

Ministry of Justice will:

  • through prisoner self-service and prison visit booking, make digital capability a central part of rehabilitation, giving offenders the ability to access digital services
  • work with probation services to identify and replicate best practice initiatives to develop ex-offenders’ digital capabilities

Cabinet Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will:

  • boost economic growth by working with partners to deliver a digital capability support programme for SMEs and VCSEs

Department for Business Innovation and Skills will:

  • continue to fund the adult skills budget that supports learners to increase skills, competence and knowledge including basic digital skills and capabilities

The Home Office will also look to introduce digital capability as a part of the Life in the UK Test, and the Cabinet Office will look for ways that improving digital capabilities can support the introduction of individual electoral registration from July 2014.

Action 2. Establish a quality cross-government digital capability programme

Government does not have a consistent or joined up approach to helping people build their digital capability. This makes it confusing and difficult for people and organisations to know what support is available from government. Currently, government funds duplicate programmes that could be better joined. To stop this means bringing digital capability funding and provision together to ensure quality, consistency, choice and value for money.

Government will avoid isolated action on digital inclusion by making it easier for departments to identify what provision and services they need to help service users, and which departments have similar offline user needs. This will make sure that when digital inclusion is used to support policy and programmes departments are doing the right things and getting value for money.

Bringing together government funding will open up the market to new providers, improve partnership working and give service providers greater clarity.

Government will also make it simpler for users to know what support is available, how to find and use it, and where the skills they have learnt can also be used to access other government services.

GDS and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will:

  • work with departments to understand the level and type of support offline users need and put out a tender for a digital skills programme
  • publish guidance to departments on how to make full use of the broad range of digital inclusion providers and services available
  • establish a cross-government digital capability and skills programme for people to learn how to use the government’s digital services

GDS will:

  • work with departments to ensure digital inclusion programme spend is aligned and achieves value for money

Departments will:

  • use guidance published by GDS and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Action 3. Give all civil servants the digital capabilities to use and improve government services

The Civil Service Capabilities Plan identified digital as a priority for civil servants’ skills development. Digital capability is at the heart of Civil Service Reform, open policy making and reducing costs. The Civil Service is one of the country’s biggest employers, with some 447,000 people working for it. It is really important that government leads by example and ensures our staff have basic digital skills. Staff need to be able to use and improve the digital services they provide, as well as to have, and be able to use, the right tools to do their jobs well.

Cabinet Office will:

  • work with professions and departments to identify the basic digital capability civil servants need to undertake certain roles and provide services to users
  • publish a version of the digital inclusion scale mapping civil servants’ digital skills and capabilities by department
  • through Civil Service Learning, provide a cross-government core skills programme to ensure civil servants have relevant digital capability

Departments and partners will:

  • ensure that all their staff have basic digital capabilities

Action 4. Agree a common definition of digital skills and capabilities

There are no common, agreed definitions of digital skills and capabilities. These differ according to context, depending on whether you are an individual, SME or VCSE organisation. This makes it confusing for people taking their first steps online to be confident that what they are learning is right. It also makes it difficult for people helping others go online be sure of what things people need to know - many of which we take for granted. This also means that by having a common definition we can measure the same thing and understand collectively how we are doing in our efforts to reduce digital exclusion.

Go ON UK will:

  • consult on, agree and publish common definitions of digital capabilities for individuals, SMEs and VCSEs

Government, public, private and voluntary sector partners will:

  • agree, use and promote Go ON UK’s definitions of digital capabilities

Action 5. Boost Go ON UK’s partnership programme across the country

Digital inclusion initiatives are not joined up enough across sectors. Isolated and disjointed initiatives to combat digital exclusion have not made the most of our combined efforts and expertise. By making some small changes to their network, and as a neutral organisation with a range of supporters and partners, Go ON UK will be well placed to play a major role in coordinating efforts across the public, private and VCSE sectors. Through Go ON UK’s partnership approach, we can bring organisations from all sectors together, focussing efforts locally with national support. We can also measure and assess how well we are doing and what needs to be done differently.

Partners will widen the range and types of cross-sector support for the Go ON UK partnership programme.

Go ON UK will:

  • extend their network to a wider group of partners from all sectors, coordinating a nationwide effort to reduce digital exclusion

GDS and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will:

  • work with Go ON UK to build on existing support for SMEs by working with local partners such as local broadband delivery projects, growth hubs, Local Enterprise Partnerships and business support bodies
  • support and complement Go ON UK’s role in coordinating digital inclusion activity across other sectors by organising and aligning government efforts
  • work together with organisations from across public, private and voluntary sectors to increase support for the UK Digital Charter and Go On UK’s partnership programme

Public, private and VCSE partners will:

Action 6. Improve and extend partnership working

With so many reasons why people are offline, it is really important that we work together, share our expertise to do what works and help people overcome the challenges they face. By working with others, we can reduce the cost of helping people go online, do more and share the benefits. Action 2 will make it simpler for government departments to work together. We need to do the same outside of government.

We will do this in a coordinated way, avoiding the current fragmentation of efforts and focusing on our priority - to help people go online. Our approaches will be tried out and tested locally and where they are successful, supported by those who can help and extended nationally. We will pilot, evaluate and take forward successful partnerships to a national scale.

Government, public, private and voluntary sector partners will

  • create a support network to help fund and grow the initiatives that work, using expertise and resources (locations, people, equipment and money) from all partners to develop good ideas into initiatives with a national impact
  • identify further best practice initiatives and support them to grow through cross-sector partnership, aligned with Go ON UK’s partnership programme

We have already identified particular partnerships where we can all work together to help overcome the challenges that stop people being online. These include:

  • uniting to support the winner(s) of the £15 million Big Lottery Fund for Basic Online Skills, to give them the greatest chance of success
  • piloting practical ways to make internet access, computer equipment and gaining digital skills cheaper and more easily available for social housing tenants
  • bring support to where people are in their daily lives and make it easier for people to find the support they need, for example the free online courses being piloted by Asda in their cafes, supported by Tinder Foundation, Money Advice Service and Go ON UK. Another example is EE’s ‘Techy Tea Parties’ where EE staff help guests from charities, including Age UK, with any technology-related questions they may have
  • embed digital inclusion into partner communications activity to encourage people, SMEs and VCSEs to take the first steps to going online

Action 7. Create a shared language for digital inclusion

How we talk about being online, the internet, the World Wide Web and digital services can be daunting and confusing for those taking their first steps online. Research commissioned by the BBC, Lloyds Bank and Go ON UK indicates that we need to change the way we talk about the internet and going online.

Go ON UK will:

  • publish best practice guidance on digitally inclusive language and imagery

Government, public, private and voluntary sector partners will:

  • follow Go ON UK’s best practice guidance in relevant communications about digital access and services

Action 8. Bring digital capability support into one place

Many organisations currently offer support to people and organisations going online, but it is difficult to find out what is available, what would be most useful and how effective it might be. We will make it simpler, clearer and faster for people to find what they need by bringing these resources together into one place and quality assuring them by establishing the digitalskills.com platform. digitalskills.com is primarily aimed at people looking to help others go online, but will also direct new users to resources.

Volunteering efforts are essential to reducing digital exclusion, and it is often these efforts that make the biggest difference with helping people go online. However volunteers don’t always get the support they need or recognition they deserve. The digitalskills.com platform will support their efforts through providing the right guidance, support and recognition volunteers need. We will build support and recruit more volunteers through the Go ON UK partnerships programme.

Once we have established the right support for people, we will do more to tell them about what is available and why they should be interested. This means making people who are offline aware of the benefits of going online, and where to go for support.

Go ON UK will:

  • establish digitalskills.com as a trusted source of information about good quality help available to get people, SMEs and VCSEs online
  • provide volunteers with a way to communicate and share best practice through digitalskills.com
  • establish ways of quality assuring digital inclusion support

Government will:

  • continue to support the development of the digitalskills.com platform through funding and providing digital expertise, to ensure it supports the needs of individuals and a clear approach to digital support for SMEs, as well as digital by default service standards

GDS and Go ON UK will:

  • supplement individuals’ efforts by the establishment of a national network of digital champions where volunteers can gain access to resources, share case studies and learn about support in their local area

Government and cross-sector partners will:

  • offer existing resources and services through digitalskills.com to ensure people can easily identify and access the right support for them
  • promote digitalskills.com as a trusted source of information and resources to get online or to help other people go online
  • run awareness campaigns to increase support for digitalskills.com and encourage greater voluntary effort to support the partnership programme

Action 9. Deliver a digital inclusion programme to support SMEs and VCSEs

Making full use of the internet can give significant commercial and efficiency benefits for SMEs. A 2012 review of VCSE skills identified digital as also being important for this sector’s development. This is similar to findings about SMEs. Like individuals, for SMEs and VCSEs a digital opportunity is being missed because the support organisations receive is not joined up and sustained to help them overcome all the challenges that stop them going online.

We’ll build on the digital capability programme currently being piloted by Go On in the North East. Once fully developed it will be extended nationally but delivered locally to help provide the digital and data skills and capabilities that SMEs and VCSEs need. We’ll do this alongside our support for individuals and as part of the partnership programme.

Cabinet Office and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will:

  • work with government departments and partners from all sectors to support the digital capability programme for SMEs led by Go ON UK, as well as supporting VCSEs. This includes events and masterclasses in conjunction with Go ON UK’s digitalskills.com platform
  • work with big business to secure pledges to support building VCSE and SME digital capability

Public, private and voluntary sector partners will:

  • share skills and expertise with SMEs and VCSEs to help increase their digital capability
  • explore ways of making low cost hardware, software and infrastructure available to SMEs and VCSEs to improve digital access

Action 10. Use data to measure performance and improve what we do

Different surveys and research measure different things that lead to confusion around digital skills and capabilities. It is really important that we join up and make sure we are measuring the right things so we can improve the services we offer.

Going online should not be a one-off. A third of those who currently don’t use the internet have tried it before. We won’t be successful if users lapse. We will judge achievement over time, measuring continuing use of the internet. When initiatives are not working, we will stop them and instead do what does work.

Currently we do not have a single view across different government services of the number of users who are offline, or those users who make use of more than one service. We will join up research across government to learn more about individuals who use our services and their needs in a coordinated way.

Go ON UK and partners will:

  • establish a working group for digital inclusion to share best practice, resources and expertise

Go ON UK and GDS will:

  • draw on media literacy research which allows us to review the achievements of Go ON UK’s partnership programme. This research also allows us to track individuals’ progress towards greater digital inclusion across the UK twice a year.

Lloyds Bank (one of Go ON UK’s founding partners) will:

  • publish its UK business digital index for SMEs and VCSEs in order to measure how we are doing on digital inclusion for organisations

GDS and government departments will:

Department for Communities and Local Government will:

  • establish a Localities Advisory Panel, with the Local Digital Alliance, to promote knowledge sharing and best practice between local authority and local public service practitioners on digital inclusion and assisted digital

GDS and partners will:

  • agree consistent research questions to be used across government departments, private and voluntary sector research and surveys to measure the impact of what we are doing and create a more accurate understanding of digital exclusion in the UK

Making the strategy happen

We have been working closely with partners from across government, public, private and voluntary sectors to secure everybody’s commitment to reducing digital exclusion.

To make sure government has the right support across all sectors to make the digital inclusion strategy succeed, our partners have jointly published a public statement on our shared ambition to reduce digital exclusion. The UK Digital Inclusion Charter has been signed by government and partners. It sets out our commitments to work together to help people and organisations go online and reduce digital exclusion. All new Go ON UK partners will sign up to the same commitments, so more people can get involved and make the strategy a national success.

The Government’s Digital Leaders Network and a newly formed Digital Inclusion Delivery Board (bringing together the existing Go ON UK Operations Board and GDS Digital Inclusion Stakeholder Advisory Group) will lead implementation of the UK Digital Inclusion Charter and digital inclusion strategy commitments.

Government departments will report on how they are doing against Action 15 of the Government Digital Strategy through the Government Digital Strategy Quarterly Progress Reports starting from July 2014.

Conclusion

This strategy is just the start. We have a lot more to do in helping people and organisations gain access to the internet and develop the skills, motivation and trust required to become digitally capable and confidently use the internet.

The challenges that individuals, SMEs and VCSEs face will continue to change and we will too. However, our resolve and commitment to building stronger, better partnerships, working together, to help people and organisations benefit from the internet in ways that help them day-to-day will remain constant.

Through the actions set out in this strategy, supported by signatories of the UK Digital Inclusion Charter, we will reduce the number of people without basic skills and capabilities by 25% every 2 years so that by 2020 everyone who can be digitally capable will be.

The web will be for everyone.

Annex 1: The challenges people face

We’ve been working with users, support organisations, government departments, local councils and partners from across the public, private and voluntary sector to understand the challenges people face when going online. We’ve also studied the data from the main UK internet surveys, as shown in our digital inclusion landscape review.

From our research, we’ve concluded that people that aren’t online lack:

  • access - the ability to actually go online and connect to the internet
  • skills - to be able to use the internet
  • motivation - knowing the reasons why using the internet is a good thing
  • trust - the risk of crime, or not knowing where to start to go online

Looking at each in more detail, we can see that digital exclusion involves some significant and wide ranging challenges.

Access

This refers to the ability of individuals and organisations to connect to and use the internet.

Accessibility

When something is accessible, it means it’s usable by everyone. Accessible web content and technology gives everyone equal access to information so they can use services fully. This is really important if we’re going to reduce digital exclusion. Digital services must be compatible with the tools some disabled people use, like screen readers or Braille software. It’s illegal to make public services online inaccessible to disabled users. One of many organisations working to make the web more accessible is AbilityNet.

Location

People shouldn’t have to travel to get access to the internet. It should be in their homes and communities. Cambridgeshire County Council continues to take internet access to its most rural communities, providing access in pubs and other public spaces.

In some cases people can’t get access to the internet because the broadband network doesn’t extend to their area. At a national level, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will deliver 95% super fast broadband coverage by 2017.

The Post Office also takes an active role in helping and encouraging people improve their digital skills. This is important as they have a customer base that is skewed towards the elderly who are a digitally excluded group.

Infrastructure

There are still parts of the UK where households don’t have internet access or where internet speeds are slow, particularly in rural areas. There are many reasons why access is not available, for example it’s not deemed commercially viable to supply connectivity. Slow internet speeds make it difficult to access rich media content like videos and limits the type of content that can be accessed.

Areas with large concentrations of social housing are particularly vulnerable to a lack of infrastructure to support internet access. Peabody Housing Association has installed free WiFi to enable access for its residents. This solves the infrastructure problem as well as the cost.

Cost

Cost is a barrier to people going online because of the price of the kit, installation, connection charge and ongoing network fees. Also, securing broadband involves signing a contract, credit checks and a fixed address. This means people on a low income, with poor credit history or frequent address changes are excluded.

For example, the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA), Scottish Government and BT have joined together to provide affordable broadband to tower blocks in central Glasgow housing estates.

As prices of internet-enabled technology fall (in particular smart phones), cost is likely to be less of a barrier in the future. Tesco and Argos (amongst others) are selling low-cost tablet computers promoting affordable ways to access the internet.

Technology

Internet technologies are rapidly changing and often people struggle to keep up with new interfaces and different devices. Technology companies are pledging to get more people online: EE’s Techy Tea Parties take a team of staff to care homes to teach digital skills to older people. The Scottish Libraries Information Council provides taster sessions to introduce IT to new users. They provide tablet and mobile computing devices to older learners in care homes, sheltered housing, community centres, churches and other meeting places.

Language

Research carried out by Go ON UK and two of its founding partners, BBC and Lloyds Banking Group, has concluded that we need to do more to make the language around the internet less intimidating and easier to understand by everyone. Best practice guidance on digitally inclusive language and imagery will be published and partners will be asked to use it.

Skills

This refers to the skills required to use and engage with content and transactions on the internet.

Literacy skills

Some people might be hiding the real reasons they’re not online, like low literacy skills, by saying they’re not interested. Rich media like video can help people with low literacy build digital skills, but fast broadband is needed to use video.

Confidence

Many people lack confidence with technology, which they identify as being too complex. A report by Age UK discusses the barriers that lead to a lack of digital confidence. People are concerned that they don’t know ‘how it works’ and have fears and anxieties around ‘doing something wrong’. In this report, there was also a tendency to describe feelings of ‘being too old to learn new things’.

Security skills

For those unfamiliar with the internet it can appear unsafe. Media reports often highlight security breaches that can be frightening for new users. If people know how to stay safe online, they’re more likely to have good experiences. Safer Internet Day and Get Safe Online days help raise awareness of online safety.

Basic digital skills and capabilities

People need basic skills like being able to stay safe online, browsing, using a search engine, using email and filling out forms. They also need to be able to interact with the government. Go ON UK and partners have developed a common definition of basic digital skills which partners will be asked to sign up to use and measure as part of the UK Digital Inclusion Charter.

Motivation

This refers to people’s attitudes and choice for being offline. The actions of the strategy will help to overcome actual or perceived barriers to getting online and promote the benefits of the internet.

Risks

Some people are afraid of going online and worry about making mistakes. If they’re going to get online, this will need to be handled sensitively and at a pace that’s suitable for them. This will help them become confident. Some of these risks were discussed in the Carnegie Trust Case Study that researched the offline community in Glasgow. Common reasons included feeling nervous when using technologies and a ‘worry that computers fail you when you need them the most’.

Necessity

Some people can feel ‘pushed’ into going online (for example through Universal Jobmatch where the transaction takes place online). If we show people the benefits of being online, this can help reduce these feelings.

Financial Benefits

Access to the internet can help save money. For example, it’s easier to shop around for insurance deals, energy suppliers and other goods and services online. PriceWaterhouseCoopers has suggested that people who shop online save £560 a year on average.

According to a report by the Centre for Economic and Business Research, the average UK shopper spends 122 hours travelling to and from the high street each year – equivalent to an average working week. This is just the journey time and doesn’t include the time spent shopping.

Social Benefits

People need to understand how the internet can help in their particular circumstances before they go online. Their reasons for going online could be to find new hobbies or to learn more about family history. Access to the internet can help people stay in touch and meet new friends. The Digital Unite survey reported that 91% of its members say that being online helps them feel less lonely.

The Northern Housing Consortium provides a summary of case studies from social housing providers. These case studies explain how providing online access to tenants reduced their social isolation and improved their:

  • motivation to participate in adult training
  • job seeking skills
  • chances of employment
  • health awareness
  • access to public services
  • consumer choice

Monmouth in Wales partnered with Wikipedia to create the first Wikipedia town: Monmouthpedia. The project is an excellent example of promoting digital inclusion by giving a reason to go online to get more information about the town while removing the fear of using the internet.

Birmingham City Council’s Universal Credit pilot project allowed social housing tenants to see the benefits of being able to manage all aspects of their tenancy online.

Health and wellbeing benefits

The internet can provide access to health information. In the future, you may be able to get medical help over the internet, including health monitoring. Age UK’s Digital Inclusion Evidence Review describes the possible benefits, citing studies in the US that make fuller use of ‘telemedicine’ (using IT to provide healthcare) compared with the UK.

Trust

This relates to people’s fear of the risk of online crime, or not knowing the credible services available.

Identity

Some people are worried about identity theft. When people have better digital skills, they are more confident in evaluating which websites to trust and adjusting privacy settings to meet their needs.

Security

Some people are worried that their information is not safe online. They are worried about malware and phishing for example. Schemes like Get Safe Online can help people and businesses keep themselves safe against the threat of fraud, identity theft, viruses and many other online security issues.

Standards

People don’t know where they can get help. For example, the Tackling Digital Inclusion report says that 60% of blind and partially sighted people are not online because they don’t know much about it and were unsure where to go for information.

Reputation

People need to know which sources of information and websites they can trust. Developing online skills can make it easier to evaluate a website’s reputation and to create secure privacy settings. Schemes like Safer Internet can help.

Annex 2: Digital inclusion scale for individuals

Here is a set of profiles to accompany the digital inclusion scale. Each profile describes people’s use of, and their attitudes towards, the internet.

Methodology

This scale and the statements about each category in it was started from the Digital Landscape Research published by the GDS in November 2012. This categorised people under these headings:

  1. Actively disengaged
  2. Reluctantly online
  3. Destination users
  4. Willing but unable
  5. Learning the ropes
  6. Confident explorers

We checked other surveys reporting on online populations to see if there were any other categories of user or non-user that would be useful for us to explore. The Oxford Internet Survey 2013 (OxIS) identified a category of people who used to be online but have now stopped using the internet. In addition, recent research by the BBC and Go ON UK focused on measuring the nation’s ‘basic online skills’. We’ve added two new categories to take account of these. The final category we added was that of ‘expert’, to recognise levels of higher expertise within the 79% of the population that have online skills.

We consulted departments and partners from across the public, private and voluntary sectors on this scale. As more people use it, we hope to be able to make further refinements.

Plotting where government transactions and services users are on the scale

GDS is helping government departments identify what level of skills people need to complete an online service independently. GDS is also planning research that will help plot the online skills that users of government services have. We can then see if the skills of the service users fall short of those needed to be able to complete the online transaction. This will highlight where users need to be given more skills and also where transactions need to be simplified.

Digital inclusion scale for individuals

Never have, never will

This category predominantly includes older people or people who were born before digital technology became common. They may feel they have ‘missed the boat’ and that learning how to use the internet doesn’t fit into their lives.

Research shows that people in this category are:

  • 88% are aged 45 or over
  • 61% are from socio-economic groups D and E
  • most are single with no family at home
  • they’re satisfied with their lives as they are

These people often have negative perceptions of the internet. People will need varying degrees of help to get online for reasons like:

  • personal attitudes
  • low motivation
  • low confidence in their digital skills
  • physical or cognitive impairments

A typical quote for this group is “Well I’ve survived this long without it, so I don’t see why I would ever need it in the future”.

Was online, but no longer online

This category predominantly includes those users who have been online, but have now stopped using the internet.

For example, they might have lost trust in the internet. They might be afraid of fraud or seeing inappropriate things online. They might have lost internet access because of cost or physical or mental capability.

These people have varying degrees of digital skills. They need a ‘light touch’ approach, like refresher training, or concentrating on an online experience they want to have, like learning to use Skype to communicate with friends and family.

Research shows that people in this category are:

  • they make up around 3% of the population
  • 90% of these people have someone to do online transactions for them (usually a friend or relative)
  • in 2013 they are mostly between 65 and 75

A typical quote for this group is “Why should I do it? I have someone who can do it for me. She’s a wizard, it would take me all day to do it myself”.

Willing and unable

People in this category predominantly have a positive perception of being online but have problems with a lack of:

  • access
  • confidence
  • skills

They are mostly ‘empty nesters’, late in their working lives, with low skills and who struggle to learn. They may have low levels of literacy. Cost may also be a problem.

Research shows that people in this category are:

A typical quote for this group is “I want to learn but I don’t want to make a fool of myself.”

Reluctantly online

These people may be resentful of the internet. They associate it with being forced to learn something they find hard. For example, they may have had to go online for work or to claim benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance.

They may not be fully independent online and still need help. They might not want their personal information to be online and feel it’s intrusive (for example photos shared via social networking sites).

While they understand the general benefits of being online, they have yet to experience them personally.

Research shows that people in this category are:

  • 50% are aged 25 to 44
  • 51% are in socio-economic groups C1 and C2
  • they use the family computer (70% have children at home)
  • they struggle to learn new computer or internet skills, despite help from children

A typical quote for this group is “I have to fill out these forms on the computers, otherwise they clip my benefits.”

Learning the ropes

These users are predominantly very positive about the benefits of the internet and have willingly started to engage with digital technologies.

They may still need help when they use digital services as they develop digital skills. They usually are or were stay-at-home mums or manual workers with younger families.

Research shows that people in this category are:

A typical quote for this group is “I don’t think it’s difficult. It’s easy if you know how”.

Task specific

This category predominantly includes people who can use certain digital services.

Their tasks may include online banking or updating social media. These tasks are often limited and specific. These people tend not to have regular contact with computers in work (for example manual workers, long-term unemployed people or retired people). They may or may not have internet access at home.

This group have the capability and access, but need to be encouraged to develop the confidence to learn new tasks and engage with a wider set of digital services.

We don’t have detailed statistics about these people at the moment. We hope to be able to provide this in future.

A typical quote for this group is “If I had the confidence, the sky would be the limit!”

Basic digital skills and capabilities

These people have enough skills to be able to navigate online independently and perform all tasks at a basic level. Go ON UK and their national partners have identified this collection of skills that are regarded as basic digital skills. These people may need some help with new tasks, but they tend not to need ongoing support after they’ve had the initial training.

Skills Communicate Find things Share personal information
Activity Send and receive emails Use search engine / browse the internet Fill out an online application form, eg: job application, make a booking or purchase, access government services, register on social website
Keeping safe online Identify and delete spam Evaluate which websites to trust Evaluate which websites to trust / set privacy settings

Research shows that people in this category are:

Confident

These internet users have no problems with using new technologies and exploring online services. Confident users make use of digital tools at work and in their everyday lives. If they become stuck at any point, they can confidently search for the relevant help online or from someone with the right level of expertise.

Expert

Expert internet users have advanced digital skills. They tend to be highly skilled across a wide range of websites. For example, they often have specialist technical knowledge of the underlying technical processes that make up computing systems. Their online and digital capability would be considered advanced.

Research shows that confident and expert users are:

  • more likely to be male
  • of all the groups, they are the least likely to have families
  • 48% are aged 16 to 34
  • 57% are in socio-economic groups A, B and C1

A typical quote from Confident or Expert users is “It’s convenient to do ANYTHING on the web – look up information, be entertained, go shopping and communicate with people.”

Next steps

The digital inclusion strategy doesn’t focus on the confident/expert groups. The strategy is designed to offer help and ongoing support to people currently on the scale from 1 to 6, so that they can maintain and develop their own basic digital skills, reaching level 7.

The scale is useful as a visual aid to demonstrate the complexities of government online services when considering target audiences. For example, do you need to be an expert to do a particular online transaction like those associated with tax? If so (and we know that there’s large number of people that fall below this category), then we need to improve our users’ skills and simplify our online services.

We have already begun to plot where government transactions lie on the scale, as seen by the carers allowance example. There’s also a piece of joint departmental research planned for 2014, to see where service users lie on the scale for each service. This will highlight the divide between some service users and the level of skill required to complete online services.

We’re also planning to map out where all civil service employees are on the scale to encourage staff to improve their online skills. We’re promoting this work with the private sector, voluntary, charity and social enterprise partners so organisations signing the UK Digital Inclusion Charter can improve the skills of their own staff too.

Annex 3: Digital inclusion landscape review

This document provides some of the original data, drawn from surveys, cited in the Digital Inclusion Strategy. It provides further evidence in support of the actions set out in the strategy. Other partners that have conducted research in this area during the development of the strategy will publish their findings in Spring 2014.

Data sources

The primary data sources used in the the Digital Inclusion Strategy are:

BBC

The Media Literacy survey measures basic digital skills and continued use of the internet.

Ofcom

The Adult Media Literacy survey provides a detailed breakdown of attitudes of online, new and offline users.

Office of National Statistics

The Internet Access Quarterly Update measures how many of the population are online or offline, or had never used the internet.

The Internet Access - Households and Individuals report concentrates on those who are connected and what they are doing online, and also provides data on those households that are not.

Oxford Internet Institute

The Oxford Internet Survey measures use and non-use of the internet and groups the population into ‘Five cultures of the Internet.’

All these surveys and research findings provide a useful evidence base for analysing, assessing and measuring digital inclusion. However, results are not all directly comparable.

Challenges with measurement

There are a number of different measures for people’s use of the internet. Some examples include:

Never used the internet:

Office for National Statistics: 13%

Royal Geographical Society: 25%

Not using the internet:

International Telecommunication Union: 18%

Remain offline:

National Audit Office: 17%

No access to internet at home:

Royal Geographical Society: 30%

Ofcom: 20%

Oxford Internet Institute: 22%

The variation in the figures demonstrates there is no common agreement on how digital exclusion is defined or measured. There are differences in the research methods used, sampling techniques and research questions posed.

But we need to measure more than just being online and understand what it actually means to be digitally capable. The BBC’s Media Literacy survey provides a useful way of measuring the number of people who are making use of the internet to benefit them day to day. It shows that 21% of the population do not have basic digital skills and capabilities (by which we mean knowing how, and having the inclination and trust, to use the internet, as well as the ability to access it).

Reasons for not using the internet

Ofcom’s Adult Media Literacy survey shows a lack of interest or motivation as the main reason why people are not online at home, followed by cost, availability and skills.

“Lack of interest” has been the main reason for people remaining offline since surveys started in 2005.

The Oxford Internet Survey 2013 gives a more detailed breakdown of the reasons that non-users have for not using the internet.

The chart below, compiled by post-graduate students at the London School of Economics and yet to be published, argues that the main reasons that people give for not using the internet are:

I’m not interested 82%
I don’t have a computer 60.4%
I don’t know how 60.3%
It’s not for people like me 59.3%
It’s too difficult 52.5%
It’s not for people my age 50.3%
It’s too expensive 42.6%
There’s no connection where I live 40.4%
There’s nothing interesting on the internet 38.7%
I’m worried about my privacy 35.7%
It’s not useful 30.3%
It’s too time consuming 26.6%
I’m worried about SPAM 16.5%
I don’t have time 15.3%

Figure 1: LSE Capstone Project

By analysing the survey data we can see that the challenges people face in going online are:

  • access
  • skills
  • motivation
  • trust

When someone has the access, skills, motivation and trust to go online, they can be considered digitally included.

Access

This refers to the ability of individuals and organisations to connect to and use the internet. This section highlights internet access trends in general and in terms of frequency, device and location.

Offline users over time

The ONS plot how many people have never accessed the internet over time and we can see a steady decline of approximately 3% annually.

2011 Q4 16.25%
2012 Q4 14.65%
2013 Q1 13.9%
2013 Q2 13.9%
2013 Q3 13.7%
2013 Q4 13.1%

Figure 2: ONS Internet Access Quarterly Update

Note: these figures only refer to those that have never used the internet and does not include a trend analysis on those that are online that lack basic digital skills. The BBC plan to run their survey every 6 months. This will allow us to monitor trends in the digital skills of the nation over time.

Government statistics suggest that more people are accessing the internet on a daily basis. Recent data from ONS 2013 shows that daily computer use is increasing across all age groups. These charts illustrate current UK usage.

Daily use of the internet
Year Adults (millions) Percentage
2006 16.2 35%
2007 20.7 45%
2008 23 49%
2009 26.6 55%
2010 29.2 60%
2011 31.4 64%
2012 33.2 68%
2013 35.7 73%

Figure 3: ONS Internet Access - Households and Individuals

Similarly the number of people accessing the internet through a mobile device is also increasing across all age groups. The variation between these age groups, however, is still significant. In 2013 94% of people aged 16 to 24 had accessed the internet using a mobile device, but less than one-fifth of those over 65 had done so. Across all age groups the most popular mobile device used to access the internet was the phone, with over half of all adults choosing this method.

Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2013 presents a dramatic rise in mobile internet access, growing 145% from 2009 to 2013. It highlights that 80% of households have internet access and 2012 to 2013 saw the slowest growth of internet take up since it stalled slightly in 2006.

Of the 20% of households without the internet most (14% of households) do not intend to get connected. Adults over the age of 75, and households in socio-economic groups D and E, are least intent on going online.

Urban and rural access

Oxford Internet Institute have included a greater emphasis on internet access in rural communities in their latest work and have supported Ofcom’s research on the availability of communications services in the UK. The main findings from this study demonstrate differences of internet availability between urban, semi-urban and rural households. In particular superfast broadband has significantly higher penetration in urban and semi-urban households compared to those in rural areas.

Skills

As we develop a more sophisticated understanding of what we mean by those who are likely to need support in order to be digitally included, we need a data source to reflect this. BBC together with Go ON UK commissioned a piece of research looking at the online skills of the nation.

The first survey results were made available in the Autumn of 2013 and follow up surveys planned for 2014. This data is broken down by area, age and socio-demographics.

The diagram below maps the BBC data on the UK’s digital literacy and those that are not online onto the digital inclusion scale developed by GDS Annex 2.

UK population digital inclusion scale

Figure 4: UK population digital inclusion scale

The yellow 7% represents people that are online but lack basic online skills which limit their online interactions.

A further breakdown of the BBC research highlights the geographic variations and has been used to inform Go ON UK’s national partnerships programme.

Digital skills by population:
population basic digital skills no basic digital skills total
UK (51.4m) 79% 21%  
Anglia (3.6m) 74% 26%  
Central (7.7m) 77% 23%  
London (10.3m) 82% 18%  
Northern Ireland (1.5m) 77% 23%  
North East (2.1m) 76% 24%  
North West (5.7m) 79% 21%  
Scotland (4.6m) 70% 30%  
South East (5.1m) 81% 19%  
West / South West (5.6m) 80% 20%  
Yorks (5.1m) 83% 17%  

Figure 5: BBC Media Literacy: Understanding Digital Capabilities

Vulnerable and disadvantaged groups

The following charts highlight recent digital skills and capabilities figures for those who are most vulnerable, or disadvantaged in society.

Age - older people are less likely to have digital skills and capabilities
15 to 24 6%
25 to 34 7%
35 to 44 8%
45 to 54 10%
55 to 64 16%
65+ 53%

Figure 6: BBC Media Literacy: Understanding Digital Capabilities

Socio-demographic - those less well off are less likely to have digital skills and capabilities
D, E 44%
C2 23%
C1 20%
A, B 12%

Figure 7: BBC Media Literacy: Understanding Digital Capabilities

People with disabilities - are less likely to have digital skills and capabilities

ONS estimates 3.6 million disabled adults had never used the internet. This represents 31% of those who were disabled and over half (53%) of the 6.7 million adults who had never used the internet. Of those adults who reported no disability, 8% (3.1 million adults) had never used the internet.

Trust

Although security and privacy concerns were not highlighted as significant factors in the UK surveys, the Government’s Digital Landscape Research highlights that a loss of trust can reduce motivation.

SMEs and VCSEs

Lloyds Bank will publish new findings on the digital maturity of the UK’s SMEs and VCSEs Spring 2014. Their report, Britain’s Digital Opportunity, outlines findings from a survey of these sectors.

SMEs were defined as organisations with fewer than 250 employees. Start-up businesses which had been trading for less than one year were excluded from the research, as unlikely to have been in business long enough to notice clear differences as a result of online development. Charity research targeted smaller registered charities where decision making was not centralised. As a result those with an annual turnover exceeding £100,000 were excluded, along with Government bodies, NHS charities, independent schools and hospitals, housing associations and faith based charities.

Lloyds Bank categorise SMEs and VCSEs according to attitudes and behaviours as follows:

Disconnected

They have little or no use of the internet. Little use of internet banking.

Basic Adopters

Often have a very basic company website. Low digital infrastructure.

Passive Users

Intermittent use of digital channels to accept payment. Signs up to social media, uses internet banking.

Starters

Presence in social media. Large volume of internet banking transactions. Use third party digital expertise. Large budget allocation for digitisation.

Established Users

High usage of eCommerce platforms. Spends on ICT training and development. Social media presence.

Advanced Users

Usage of Cloud, online accounting services, seeks support for increasing digital innovation.

Innovators

Significant spends in digital security. High spends for digital infrastructure and training.

Further evidence

The government will continue to publish research and findings on digital skills and the use of the internet. As part of the Digital Inclusion Strategy government and partners will work together to improve our evidence base. We will use this to ensure that we do what works and improve our performance to help people go online.