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Our Social Impact: Digital Exclusion in Cornwall

When someone has not used the internet in the last three month or more, they are classed as digitally excluded, this is the criteria used by ONS (Office for National Statistics).

Digital exclusion is a prevalent issue in the UK today, and has seen a large gap arise between active internet users and people who now are finding themselves in less favourable positions for finding work and completing everyday tasks. The causes of digital exclusion are many, and not limited to age and location; barriers to digital inclusion can be lack of knowledge and understanding as to the benefits of being connected, lack of guidance and means to learn IT skills and physical and financial barriers to accessing devices and the internet.

In March 2021, it was estimated that 9 million people in the UK lack either access or the knowledge to use the internet and digital devices effectively, making up 16% of adults in the UK.

An area in the UK with high risk of digital exclusion is Cornwall. In 2018, ONS figures showed that 13.4% of the adult population (Including the isles of Scilly) had never used the internet, equalling around 71,000 adults. Compared to a UK average of 8.4%.

The Governments Essential Digital Skills Framework bases itself on 6 areas people need to be confident in to be classed as digital included:

  1. Foundation skills such as turning on devices and understanding the concept of accessing the internet
  2. Communication skills such as communicating security, using word processing software to create documents and using social media platforms
  3. Handling information and content skills such as understanding not all information online is reliable, using search engines and organising content on their device
  4. Transacting skills such as setting up accounts online, accessing public services online and managing transactions securely
  5. Problem solving skills such as using the internet to find information and using live chat or tutorial facilities to solve issues
  6. Skills to stay safe and behave legally online such as setting privacy settings, recognising suspicious emails and understanding intellectual property rights

In Cornwall, the percentage of adults who had all these skills came to 76%, and those who have used those skills in the last 3 months came to 44%, But what does this mean?

Taken from Cornwall’s Digital Inclusion Strategy 2019-2023, lack of digital skills can lead to the following adverse impacts on a person’s life:

  • Poorer health outcomes, both mentally and physically leading to a lower life expectancy
  • Increased Loneliness and social isolation
  • Less access to jobs and education
  • It can mean paying more for essentials
  • Financial exclusion
  • An increased risk of falling into poverty

What are we doing?

Cosmic UK is the specialist provider of digital skills training on the Restart Scheme, aiming to provide the necessary training for job seekers to upskill their digital knowledge, allowing better opportunities searching for, and moving into work. The Restart scheme operates across the entire south of England, including Cornwall. Offices in Cornwall include Launceston, Bodmin, St Austell, Newquay, Redruth, Falmouth/Penryn and Penzance, with Cosmic providing essential digital upskilling across all locations.

What Can You Do?

Recent Lockdowns have shown a large increase in the importance of basic digital skills, with many previously-excluded individuals learning the ways of zoom and such to stay in touch with friends and loved ones.

People have banded together to take the time to show patience and kindness with their friends and families to ensure we can all stay connected, and this is an attitude we must continue to adopt, allowing us to bridge the gap of digital inclusion that is becoming so widespread in our community.