I was really excited to see that the OXIS Survey is back after a six year break and yesterday, the Oxford Internet Institute released the summary report to the 2019 analysis. The latest report – intriguingly called Perceived Threats to Privacy Online: The Internet in Britain – shows a rapid increase in the use of the internet since its last outing in 2013. Now we have the evidence that there are more and more people streaming music, watching television content and paying their bills online, demonstrating some of the many benefits enjoyed by those who are frequent internet users, and reflecting what many of us see in our day to day lives.
But the report also reinforces a worrying trend. As those people who are online are increasingly benefiting from the digital world, there is a growing disconnect between users and non-users. The digital divide is widening and the report highlights many of the contributing factors.
Level of income remains a strong indication of internet use. There is still a higher proportion of non-users below the median income (£28,400/year), whilst a whopping 40% of respondents in the lowest income category (less than £12,500/year) are digitally excluded.
Age also continues to play an important role. Whilst almost everyone under the age of 50 uses the internet, after 50 there is a sharp decline in internet use of about 2% per year.
Particularly troubling is that ‘the most notable point about the relation of education and internet use is how little it has changed between 2013 and 2019.’ Just as before, there is a disproportionate percentage of non-users among less-educated groups.
All of this goes to show that it is those people who are most likely to be socially excluded that are digitally excluded too – and so those who have the most to gain from digital are most likely to be left behind.
The report points to not only a growing digital divide in experience, but also in perceptions of the internet. 72% of non-internet users believe that it threatens privacy, compared to 52% of those who actually use the internet. When asked whether they agree that ‘technology makes things better’, 79% of users agree as opposed to just 29% of non-users. Concerns about keeping safe online is a barrier to many people engaging with the digital world. We know that motivation is one of the huge barriers stopping people getting online, and this report further proves this. It is vital that we show people the benefits of using the internet in order to help them to move forward positively on their digital journey.
What does this all mean?
It means we are still a long way off achieving the goal set out in our Blueprint for a 100% Digitally Included Nation. A growing digital divide means there are people being left behind, and these people are the most likely to be socially excluded. So we need to act now – to work together as a nation to close the digital divide once and for all.
Our Blueprint sets out the six key actions that we believe need to be taken to close this divide – but we can’t do it alone. We need a commitment of partners from across the sectors to ensure we can be a leading digital nation, and really seize the benefits that digital can provide.