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Survey Justice and equalities

A data divide based on access

A significant proportion of the UK public lacks adequate access to data infrastructures, such as broadband, connectivity and smartphones, survey finds

25 March 2021

MEDICAL RECORD APP ON SMARTPHONE

COVID-19 has thrown a spotlight on the data and digital divides in the UK. A large proportion of the public lack adequate access to fundamental data infrastructure, such as ownership of a computer, broadband, connectivity and smartphones, so are unable to benefit fairly from the use of data-driven technologies in health. The consequences of this are exclusion from datasets, resulting in ‘missing data’ and the creation of a class that is ‘below the data line’. Closing the data divide must start with closing the digital divide.

The data divide

This is a section from a report of the findings of a nationally representative survey of 2,023 UK British adults to explore public attitudes towards a range of technologies deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic for health outcomes.

Nearly a fifth (19%) of respondents said they did not have access to a smartphone, and another 14% said they do not have access to the internet. 8% said they had neither a smartphone or access to the internet.1 The most clinically vulnerable, those who identified as having a disability and those on the lowest incomes (less than £20,000) were among those who most likely not to have access to either broadband or a smartphone, in addition to those above the age of 65:

 

 

 

There has been a widespread perception that digital exclusion impacts disproportionately on the elderly, but recent research has shown that it is not just a generational issue.2 Even before the pandemic, just over one quarter (27%) of the public did not have the digital skills necessary for day-to-day life in Britain, and over half of that number were under the age of 60.3 And an Ofcom survey between January and March 2020 identified that nearly 13% of UK adults do not use the internet, and that nearly 10% of households with children did not have home access to a laptop, desktop PC or tablet.4

A data divide based on knowledge, awareness and skills

The next section finds that a large proportion of the public lacks awareness of the existence of, and the potential to use and adopt, some of the technologies we asked about.

Image credit: cnythzl

This is a section from The data divide – findings of a nationally representative survey of 2,023 UK British adults, to explore public attitudes towards a range of technologies deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic for health outcomes. Read the full report here, and explore the full dataset in Github.

Footnotes

  1. This figure is likely to be slightly higher than reported, as all survey respondents would have required access to a landline or a mobile telephone.
  2. Holmes, H. and Burgess, G. (2020). ‘Opinion: Coronavirus has intensified the UK’s digital divide.’ University of Cambridge. [online] Available at: https://www.cam.ac.uk/stories/digitaldivide
  3. Lloyds Bank (2020). Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index. [online] Available at: https://www.lloydsbank.com/assets/media/pdfs/ banking_with_us/whats-happening/lb-consumer-digital-index-2020-report.pdf.
  4. Ofcom. (2020) Adults Media Use and Attitudes. [online] Available at: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0031/196375/ adults-media-use-and-attitudes-2020-report.pdf [Accessed 19 Mar. 2021].

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