Up to 19 million people over the age of 16 are currently experiencing some form of digital poverty, revealed a report by Deloitte and the Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA), after assessing the scope, scale and impacts of digital poverty in the UK.

The report was prepared by Deloitte for the DPA to help improve the wider public’s understanding of digital poverty, providing justification as to why this issue deserves attention, what can be done and the potential socioeconomic impacts of resolving this widespread problem.

The report, ‘Digital Poverty in the UK: A socio-economic assessment of the implications of digital poverty in the UK’, found that one in two people living in DE classified households, those considered to be working in semi-skilled or unskilled occupations, are currently in digital poverty.

The data also revealed that unemployed people are two to three times as likely to experience digital poverty.

Cost wise, Deloitte and the DPA estimate that interventions in digital poverty can unlock billions each year for individuals, government, and businesses. Their research estimates that improved digital skills could be worth a collective £17 billion in additional earnings for individuals (though this could be partially offset by lower benefit income and depends on employer demand), while reducing social exclusion could create £2 billion in additional welfare benefits to individuals.

Tackling digital poverty could save the NHS an estimated £1 billion in savings for GP practices alone.

Elizabeth Anderson, CEO of the Digital Poverty Alliance, commented:

“We are delighted to work with Deloitte to release the report on Digital Poverty in the UK, shining a bigger spotlight on the issue at hand. The report highlights key, impactful statistics, providing evidence that more must be done to address this vital issue while highlighting the widespread nature of digital poverty. Digital poverty can impact an individual’s life at any age, from a child’s education to an elderly person’s ability to access services, such as online banking, and more must be done to support those in need.

“As the DPA work towards the goal of ending digital poverty by 2030, the report will act as a guiding pillar for government, businesses and stakeholders. It provides detailed insight into what must be done, as well as the positive impacts becoming a digitally inclusive nation can have, not only on those who are currently excluded, but on the UK as a whole. Ending digital poverty will take more than just the actions of a select few, but the collective actions of the nation, and we hope the report increases the momentum the DPA has created towards this vital cause.”

The report comes after the launch of the DPA’s National Delivery Plan, announced earlier in the year, which set out six key missions to achieve their goal of ending digital poverty by 2030 and the Deloitte report builds upon this, offering additional evidence in support of this goal.

Andrew Tong, Economic Advisory Partner at Deloitte, said: “Digital poverty is a pervasive issue that impacts not only the oldest in society who have been unable to keep pace with technological advancements, or those with acute affordability issues, but individuals of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.

“The report highlights eight priority areas for action that could improve digital poverty outcomes for those affected across all ages and sectors.”

The research also found that younger adults (aged 18-34 years) are more likely to be impacted by the effects of digital poverty than middle-aged adults (aged 35-55 years), while women are more likely to be affected than men.

When looking at the different geographies in the UK, Northern Ireland and Scotland are most impacted when focusing only on digital connectivity, device and participation gaps while Northern Ireland and Wales appear most impacted when digital skills gaps are factored in.

Written by Elizabeth Anderson, Chief Executive Officer