Digital exclusion

Despite increased access to the internet amongst the population, there is a ‘digital divide’ between those who do not use the internet and those who make regular use of it. Through lack of access, lack of skills, age, geography or choice, non-users are at risk of marginalisation as services become 'digital by default'. There is a further divide between those with access to high speed broadband and those with slower connections (see access to the internet). This is also an international development issue as people in some countries remain constrained by poor infrastructure.

What are the implications?

  • Further marginalisation and increased socio-economic inequalities for those who are ‘digitally excluded' particularly for the elderly and those in lower socio-economic groups.
  • People without access to the internet may face higher prices for goods and services such as insurance as they are increasingly traded online.
  • Children in households without internet access may struggle with educational attainment relative to their peers.
  • People without internet skills may find it increasingly difficult in the labour market.
  • Local variation in the levels of digital inclusion may perpetuate inequalities between local areas

Moving forward

Online services risk excluding some groups and the VCS has a strong interest in combating exclusion. It is therefore important to monitor the situation and combat any possible marginalisation that occurs.

  • Does your organisation have a policy or strategy in place that ensures it accounts for any possible exclusion that online services might bring?
  • Can your organisation help people to get online?
  • This is particularly an issue for older people - what steps could you take to help older people access digital services?
  • Could you become a partner of Race Online 2012 - the Government's digital inclusion campaign?
  • Is this a particular issue for the groups you work with? Do you know how many of your service users have access to the internet?

The VCS often has an important role in the development of skills for both their staff and for the vulnerable and marginalised people they work with.

  • Can you invest in basic ICT training for those members of your staff that do not have a high level of ICT literacy?
  • Does your organisation need to think about how it can play a role in raising levels of ICT literacy in users who are socially excluded and marginalised in other ways?

Want to know more?


Web I’m 64: Ageing, the internet and digital exclusion

Published by: DEMOS – a social policy think tank.

Date: 2007

Format: PDF

What is it? An article looking specifically at the effect of the digital divide on the older generation.  

How useful is it?   The first section consists of a review of existing information and data, identifying what is known about the division in technological access between younger and older generations. The research team conduct expert interviews, case studies and focus groups with older people which identify an enthusiasm amongst old people to be part of the technological revolution, but a sense of disconnection from a techno-culture aimed at a younger generation. The article finishes by looking at future trends in access to technology amongst the older generation and the potential benefits and dangers that these pose.

Other comments:

Race Online 2012 Research

Published by: Race Online 2012 - a Digital Inclusion campaign run by the Government

Format: Web

What is it? A collection of links to research highlighting the issues around digital exclusion, including the latest statistics, reports and details of the campaign to get more people online.

How useful is it? The campaign is funded by the Cabinet Office, and spearheaded by Martha Lane Fox, the internet entrepeneur, with the ambitious aim of getting everybody online by 2012. The page links to the an extensive collection of research on this issue, and you can filter by theme. Elsewhere on the site, there are links to actions you can take to help get people online, encouraging everyone to become digital champions to help tackle digital exclusion.

Young people and the digital divide

Published by: Catch-22, a national charity

Date: September 2010

Format: Web / PDF

What is it? A report on research conducted with 250 young people about their experience of using the internet.

How useful it is? It outlines the experience of young people who are not online, the challenges they face and makes some recommendations for how to bridge the digital divide. The report confirms the benefits of being online, discussing the implications of digital exclusion on access to financial services, education, health information, and housing and other public services.





Last updated at 16:45 Thu 24/Mar/11.

Recent comments

Joh's picture


I am interested to see whether mobile broadband is included in this? I do see a lot of people coming out of say, Carphone warehouse with the netbooks and pay as you go deals? Its good what The government are recently doing - Non Digitised You are Missing Out!

Pete's picture


Third Sector Foresight

I've just updated this driver a little - I haven't included any stats to try and keep this future-proof. However there are still 9 million adults in the UK who have never used the internet, including a suprising number of 45-65 year olds. The Guardian datablog has a great article / stats on this issue.

It is very topical today, as the government's digital inclusion advisor Martha Lane Fox has just published here recommendations for government services to be "digital by default" to save money/provide a better service. If you didn't think this was an issue for your charity, it is now!

Perhaps it is time to join her Race Online 2012 campaign - they have published this toolkit for charities that looks quite useful and are encouraging people and organisations to sign up 'Big Society' style in order to get everyone in the UK online by 2012.

It would take a lifetime to make my gran undertstand "all them double-you dot dots", but this report from Catch22 (also in the further reading above) shows that there are plenty of young people who are also facing digital exclusion. Well worth a read.

I've also put together this collection of links of some of the digital exclusion resources I have been looking at today, and will be uploading them to the Foresight Delicious account shortly.

Ben's picture


As the clocks went back yesterday, and as 8.7 million people in the UK have never used the web (missing out on loads of ways to make their lives easier and more enjoyable)...

An hour is long enough to give everyone a taste of the web, so if you know someone offline you could make a real difference. Or if no one you know needs your help, you could volunteer.

Pledge your hour here ( to find out how, get handy resources, local help and to show your support for this big campaign!

Join the discussion!

How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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