Insights Ofcom publishes research showing that the digital divide was narrowed by the pandemic, but that around 1.5 million homes remain offline

Ofcom has published its annual studies into the media use and attitudes of adults in the UK, and of children and their parents. This research showed that the UK’s digital divide narrowed during the coronavirus pandemic, as people went online to escape the lockdown.

The proportion of homes without internet access appears to have fallen from 11% in March 2020, as the UK entered lockdown, to 6% of homes, around one and a half million, in March 2021.

The research also showed that adults with previously limited digital skills have embraced online shopping, digital banking and video calling friends and relatives, while younger people acted as IT support, helping older or less digitally-confident friends and relatives get connected.

However, despite this, for those households that remain offline, digital exclusion during lockdown is likely to be more disempowering than ever, Ofcom says. Groups least likely to have home internet access are those aged 65+ (18% without access), lower income households (11% without access), and the most financially vulnerable (10% without access). Almost half of adults who remain offline say they find the internet too complicated (46%), or it holds no interest for them (42%). For others (37%), a lack of equipment is a barrier.

Additionally, around one in five children (17%) did not have consistent access to a suitable device for their online home-learning. This increased to 27% of children from households classed as most financially vulnerable. To read Ofcom’s news release in full and for links to the studies, click here.