The people who would benefit most from the internet are not reaping the advantages, the Digital Minister has said following a report into the UK’s internet usage.
Almost one-fifth of people (18%) are non-internet users, according to a University of Oxford study, with a growing number citing privacy fears and lack of skills as the reason for staying offline.
Speaking at the paper’s launch in London on Monday, new Digital Minister Matt Warman said: “There is a small but persistent number of people who resolutely avoid the internet and take the view that it isn’t for them and, as the panel was discussing, that means that the benefits of the internet that we perhaps in this room are all familiar with, like saving money and time and access to health information and all that stuff, is not benefiting others.
“And it’s obvious that the people who would benefit most from this, if you look at the data around demographics, around education, the people who would benefit most are the people who are not benefiting, and understanding motivational barriers to internet use and tech adoption has to be key to an inclusive future but I think it’s also important to say that Government can’t just stand by and say ‘What can we do to help?’
In 2013, when the last survey was carried out, only 1% of people questioned indicated that privacy worries were the reason they did not use the internet, but in 2019 that number had risen to 10%.
In 2013, 8% of people questioned said not knowing how to use the internet was the reason they did not use it, and in 2019 that figure had risen to 18%.
People who said they are simply not interested in being online remained the most common reason, though it fell from 82% in 2013 to 69% in 2019.
“Broadly speaking, older people are more concerned with their privacy although not by much, it’s not a tremendously strong effect here,” said Dr Grant Blank, survey research fellow at Oxford Internet Institute.
“It’s maybe 10 percentage points between 18 and 24 versus 65 and 74, so it’s not a big gap.”
The findings indicate that lowest earners in the country remain the biggest group of non-internet users, with six in 10 of those on an income of less than £12,500 using the internet, as well as older people whose usage declines sharply after the age of 50.