What causes digital exclusion?

Posted in: Opinion

Exclusion – the very word has negative connotations. Excluded from school? Troublemaker, or truant. Excluded from a group? Lonely, and isolated.

Excluded from the team? Frustrated and unimportant. Excluded from the email? Uninformed, and unaware.

Exclusion can be a subtle form of bullying. Excluding customers from receiving content, by using digital-only channels for your marketing and communications, does not make good business sense.

Age is a massive contributor to digital exclusion, but low income, disability, and learning difficulties are also significant factors. Read on, to learn why printed content is still so important to many individuals, and essential for business.

The digital divide

The government’s UK Digital policy paper, published in March 2017, sets out a strategy to “develop a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone.” The same paper identifies a number of barriers to digital inclusion.

These include lack of physical access to technology, including geographical restrictions, like living in rural areas. It can be due to low income or low literacy levels. Lack of knowledge and basic digital skills when using technology, or “digital illiteracy”; and lack of confidence, or motivation to use technology are also big contributors.

There are some sections of society that are more likely to be digitally excluded than others. These include older people, homeless people, and those for whom English is not a first language. People in lower income groups, and those with a disability or in social housing are also more likely to be at risk of digital inclusion.

Lloyds Bank’s UK Consumer Digital Index* showed that, in 2019, 22% of people in the UK do not have the digital skills needed for everyday life. It is predicted that by 2030, 8% of the population will remain digitally disengaged. People living with a disability are 35% less likely to have essential digital skills for life.

In numbers, almost 12 million people lacked digital skills in 2019. In 2020, 10 million remained digitally excluded. By 2032, there will still be an estimated 5.8 million people** who can’t be reached online.

Bridging the gap

Long-term, the government’s digital inclusion strategy promises to increase digital inclusion across the UK. Connectivity will be improved by “building world-class digital infrastructure for the UK”.

Digital skills and inclusion is to give “everyone access to the digital skills they need”.

The UK is to become “the best place to start and grow a digital business”. The government intends to benefit the wider economy, by “helping every British business become a digital business.”

It wants to create a safe and secure cyberspace for users of the internet, “making the UK the safest place in the world to live, work and move online”. It intends to maintain the UK government as a “world leader in serving its citizens online”. It is “unlocking the power of data in the UK economy and improving public confidence in its use.”

These are ambitious plans indeed. In 2022, 1 in 20 UK households had no internet access. Around 2 million households struggled to afford access to the internet.

More than 7 million low-income households were already going without essentials. The cost of living crisis is biting hard.

Strategy implementation aside, full digital world inclusion still requires active participate fully by the population.

Inclusive access

The earliest written advert was found among the ruins of Thebes, in Egypt. Dated to around 3,000BC, the Papyrus promoted a weaving shop, and the details of a runaway slave.

The first newspaper advert was published in the US, in 1704.

The first direct mail campaign was launched in 1892, by Sears. The company sent out more than 8,000 postcards, generating 2,000 new orders.

Print does not require mobile connectivity or internet access. You don’t need digital skills and you don’t require digital technology to access print. It is, by its nature, inclusive. Retention of information and brands and repeat reviewing, are consistently higher with print than digital.

Print marketing may be more than 5000 years old, but studies show it still works.

Sticking to digital communication means you’re potentially missing out on millions of UK customers, who don’t know about your business, or the services you provide.

If you’re looking for an all-inclusive way to promote your business, we recommend making print your format of choice. Call our friendly team today, on 01625 870000, and let us help you grow.

* 2019
** Digital Nation UK 2022

The non-renewable materials in your tech

Many of the materials that make up our smartphones and personal computers come from non-renewable minerals. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and there are no viable alternatives. Gold, silver, platinum, palladium, gallium and indium: these are not minerals that can be sustainably harvested. Up to 80% of the materials in phones can be recycled*,yet a third of people still have old phones collecting dust.

Lithium is a relatively common mineral. Even so, its price is on the rise. Best known for its use in the production of rechargeable batteries, demand has increased largely thanks to electric vehicles.

Many devices aren’t made for recycling. In an effort to reduce size and bulk, smartphone batteries can’t always be removed. LG, Motorola and Google all released modular phone models, but none of them took off. The relative low cost of electric and electronic items means that many will prefer to replace than repair.

Even if you did want to repair, it could be that trying to do so would be impeded, if not forbidden, due to copyright laws.

The high cost of e-waste

In 2020, the e-waste recycling market was valued at more than £41 billion. It is forecast that the market will reach a value of more than £116 billion by 2028.
Hairdryers to heat pumps; calculators to cookers; kettles to keyboards; laptops to LEDs, our thirst for technology is literally costing the earth.

^ greenhouse gas emissions estimated to be produced in the manufacture and running of digital technologies divided between all internet users around the world
* RecycleNow

** Which, 2020

*** TheRoundUp.org (2023)

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