Going online? Nothing in it for me!
By Dave Brown, Programme Director, Digital Communities Wales
Over 90% of internet non-users believe there is no reason for them to get online, according to a major Welsh Government survey published recently. There are lessons here for everyone working in digital inclusion in Wales.
The research was a follow up to the National Survey for Wales. This survey asks around 16,000 people a range of questions covering areas from health to their opinion of public services. There are basic questions about Internet use. The aim of the subsequent re-contact survey was to dig deeper into the reasons why people aren’t online.
The re-contact survey found that 91% of people who are offline said that they have no interest in or need for the Internet. 56% said they would never under any circumstances consider try to get online. This might look like evidence of a good degree of stubbornness, but actually the research shows that there are around 200,000 people in Wales who are digitally excluded but could conceive of themselves using the Internet in the future. The challenge for Digital Communities Wales, the Welsh Government digital inclusion project run by the Wales Co-operative Centre, is how these people can be supported. And as the years roll by and more services become digital only, the view that “I don’t need it, I don’t want it” is going to be increasingly unsustainable. Right now, after the abolition of the paper driving licence, the only way to rent a car is to go online to authorise sharing of your driving history with rental firms first.
75% of people who weren’t online cited lack of skills, support or security concerns as a reason. 56% mentioned a barrier like cost, health or literacy issues. Interestingly those who worried about cost thought that the spending required was greater than it actually is. They also tended to be more concerned about the upfront cost of the computer or other device than an additional monthly bill, for example for broadband access. People don’t realise that you can get a serviceable tablet for less than the average cost of a weekly shop.
The survey also looked at people who had used the Internet in the past, but had stopped. It found that people who had gone online with someone else operating the computer for them were less likely to continue themselves. This suggests that approaches such as Assisted Digital with Universal Credit, which does just that, won’t in themselves solve Wales’ digital exclusion problem and help people get the wider benefits of being online.