Households without internet access likely to be deprived in other ways, Carnegie UK study finds
Research based on the Scottish Household Survey has shown a clear correlation between digital exclusion and social deprivation
Elderly computer user - Image credit: John Giles/PA Images
Households without access to the internet are also likely to be deprived in other ways, new research for the Carnegie UK Trust has found.
A report by Carnegie UK Trust head of advocacy Douglas White reveals a high degree of overlap between digital exclusion and common measures of deprivation.
White has called for “radical action” from those on the frontline of policy, describing digital inclusion as “arguably one of the great social challenges of our age”.
The report is based on analysis of the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Carnegie UK Trust and funded by the Scottish Government.
It discovered that those who do not use the internet are likely to live less active lifestyles, have poorer mental health and feel less socially connected to their local area than those who have internet access, even after other demographic and socioeconomic factors are taken into account.
Working status, qualification level and age were found to be particularly significant in terms of digital inclusion, with housing tenure, income and whether or not a household has children also important.
Those who are older, on low incomes or live in social rented accommodation are less likely to have digital access than the rest of the population.
“Digital inequalities are most likely to be experienced by those who are already more likely to be deprived according to many other measures,” the report says.
“Those who are digitally excluded do not benefit from the great many advantages the technology can bring.
“They are more limited in their access to public services, to channels for civic and democratic participation, to a wide array of knowledge and information, to opportunities for cultural and social engagement, to the labour market and to opportunities for education and learning.”
It also notes that “many of those groups who are currently digitally excluded could benefit disproportionately from the benefits of being online” and that technology is currently exacerbating inequalities.
The research found that people who have access to the internet are more likely to also have access to a car; have a driving licence; have taken a flight, done something cultural such as going to cinema, library or live music, taken part in sport, done an activity such as reading, dancing, singing or playing a musical instrument and used council services in the past year; to have volunteered; and to have been outdoors for leisure at least once a week.
Those without internet access are more likely to have seen a doctor at least once a month and used a post office and public transport at least once a week.
Four particular indicators of social inclusion, active living – which includes having hobbies, using council services, taking part in sport and volunteering – transport, mental health and being socially connected, were found to have significant correlation with digital exclusion, with the strongest being an active lifestyle.
While the report is unable to say whether having an active lifestyle is a cause or an effect of digital inclusion, it notes that this analysis of the evidence “further highlights the role of digital participation in contributing to a number of major public policy goals.”
Commenting on the report, Douglas White said: “Digital participation - helping everyone to get online and maximise the benefits of digital technology - is arguably one of the great social challenges of our age.
“We know the great advantages that being digitally connected can offer – improved employment opportunities, higher levels of educational attainment, cheaper goods and products and better access to public services.
“However, too often those who are excluded from these benefits are the very same people who are also disadvantaged according to most other social and economic measures.
“This means that digital technology – the great enabling force of the 21st century – is actually exacerbating rather than bridging long-standing inequalities in our society.
“To date, responses to digital inclusion across different sectors have tended to treat the issue as a standalone programme or delivery silo, important in its own right but required to compete with other, much more established players such as education, health, social care, welfare and housing for resources and attention.
“If we want to fix this then radical action is required. It needs real commitment and a willingness to try out new approaches and share learnings from one another and we urge those on the frontline of policy, including charities, government and public services to help lead the way.”
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A snapshot of people in this sector, we hope it gives an insight into how strategically important technology is now to Scottish public service delivery.