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Latest stats highlight the inequalities of digital exclusion

By Mark Smith, Digital Content Development Officer

Further stats have just been made available, following the last Welsh Government National Survey, part of which focuses on internet use and access.

Now, we’ve known for some time that you are less likely to be online if you are older, disabled, out of work or living in social housing. If you find yourself in more than one of those categories, you are even less likely to be reaping the benefits of the internet.

The new figures throw up some interesting, perhaps unexpected, results.

In terms of gender, 83% of men reported that they were current internet users, compared with 79% of women. However, there were no differences found between the genders for those aged up to 64. Differences only emerge for those aged 65 or over. 55% of men aged 65 or over use the internet compared with 43% of women. Why is it that a greater percentage of older men are getting online than women of a similar age? What are the barriers facing older women from going online?

With older people, the type of technology used throws up another interesting angle. Laptops and desktop PCs are the devices of choice among the over 65s, according to the stats, with younger people using smartphones and tablets. Does the age of the technology make a difference to the value of the user experience?

When looking at health issues, 62% of people with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity use the internet, compared with 87% of those without such a condition. As with older people, disabled people and those with enduring illnesses are more likely to be socially isolated and stand to gain a lot from being online.

Do qualifications matter? The stats seem to indicate so. Of those with no qualifications 44% used the internet; of those with qualifications at National Qualification Framework levels 3 (e.g. A and AS Level) and above, 94% were internet users. Are the former more likely to be out of work and, therefore, need to be online to find a job?

On housing, people in private rented accommodation were the group most likely to use the internet (90%). A lower proportion of people in owner occupied properties (81%) used the internet; and a much lower proportion of people in social housing (69%). You could argue that people in social housing stand to gain the most from being online, as they are more likely to need to search for work and access Universal Credit online, along with other public services.

On Digital Communities Wales, we work with all of the above. Some take it as read that we work with such socio-economic groups for good reasons. These latest statistics help to scratch beneath the surface to show some of the harsh realities faced by those furthest from the modern world of digital technologies, iPads, and social media. Some have pressing issues that they deal with on a daily basis, however, they can be issues that can be helped in some way by being online and that is our mission.