Half a million in Wales still not online – the poor hit hardest
This week, the Wales Co-operative Centre has published “Digital Inclusion: Stronger Communities”, a policy paper that examines the impact of digital exclusion on people in Wales and argues for a continuing, specific digital inclusion project. Today we look at new statistics which reveal the huge number of people still not online.
The National Survey for Wales results for 2013/14 were published in May. The survey included questions about internet use. According to the survey, nearly one in five of Welsh adults has never used the Internet. This is a small improvement of 2% on the previous year’s results. Around half a million people in Wales therefore remain digitally excluded.
In terms of Internet access at home, numbers are improving with 75% of households being online. But levels of online home access in social housing remain much lower, at just over a half, and show no increase on the previous year. A recent report published by Community Housing Cymru indicates that 47% of social housing tenants in Wales do not use the Internet. This amounts to over 200,000 people.
The problem has not solved itself as more people acquire smartphones. The National Survey for Wales shows that barely half of the population access the Internet using their phone. The proportion reduces considerably with older people.
There is also a strong correlation between digital exclusion and poverty. 67% of households living in the 20% most deprived areas in Wales had access to the internet, compared with 85% of households living in the 20% least deprived areas. When compared with 2012-13, the proportion of households in the 20% most deprived areas which had access to the Internet had not changed (remaining at 67%). However, for households in the 20% least deprived areas it increased from 81% to 85%.
Levels of digital exclusion increase markedly with age. Internet use is much less likely amongst people over the age of 45, with only 25% of the over 75s having been online. The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has described levels of ICT literacy amongst older people in Wales as “critically low”, leading to widespread discrimination, exclusion and isolation.
So, wealthier people are increasingly likely to use the Internet. There is a significant and stubborn problem amongst Wales’ poorest people and most deprived communities. Older people in particular are disadvantaged. To tackle a problem this widespread, and this severe, Wales needs a continuing, national digital inclusion programme to follow Communities 2.0.