The digital skills gap

Why we can’t assume everyone is online and using the internet “like us”

The digital skills gap header image 

On my train into work a few weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast from BBC Radio 4, Digital Future: the New Underclass, that really chimed with the research and work we’ve recently been doing around Inclusivity and Accessibility.

The headline statistic for the show is compelling enough. 22% of the British population lack the digital skills they need to get by day-to-day. That’s nearly 12 Million people. The programme also highlights the fact that this is an issue that affects a broad range of people that struggle to get online for a number of reasons – such as poverty, lack of skills or lack of technology.

It is all too easy to make assumptions about the needs, wants and frustrations of our own customers, but until we take the time to dig a little deeper and find out more, assumptions are all we have.


Does digital-first mean digital-only?

Of course, it makes sense to move services online and to enable people to self-serve. We are living in a connected world where tasks that previously could take days or weeks to action, can be handled online in a matter of minutes (I recently had to update my address on my driver’s license and was delighted by how much simpler the process has become in just 3 years).

However, forcing people to use digital channels is the wrong approach. Using a broad-brush approach to communications not only alienates those who need your help the most but ignores the needs of individual customers and users.


Food for thought

8% of UK adults (about 4 million people) only use a mobile phone to access the internet. If someone only has a mobile phone to access the internet and your website is poorly optimised for mobile, you’re effectively barring them from being able to properly access the information or services they need. 1

Then there is the fact that 7.5% of people in the UK aged over 16 have never used the internet – that’s nearly 4 million people. 34% of these people cited a lack of digital skills as a barrier to them getting online. Does your organisation offer appropriate offline methods and channels of communication? 2

Through better access to improved accessible technology, 78% of disabled adults are now online. Do you understand the specific needs of your users and are you confident your website passes accessibility standards? 2


Accessibility isn’t just an issue that affects the vulnerable. It affects all of us and needs to be prioritised by organisations.

Want to find out more about Inclusivity and Accessibility? Download our Inclusive Communications Report, 2019.

Blog author:
Lucy Beldon, Planning & Inclusivity Lead at CDS


Statistic sources

1: ofcom

2: ons

Go back to News page