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Call for Evidence

Call for evidence

The digital divide is the gap between those who have adequate access to digital technology, such as the internet and computers, and those who do not. People without adequate access to digital technology are often referred to as being “digitally excluded”. There are many reasons for digital exclusion, including:

  • not being able to access infrastructure that provides access to the internet, for example living in a location without sufficient broadband or mobile coverage or being unable to afford a connection package;
  • not having access to a device such as a smartphone, laptop or tablet which can connect to the internet;
  • not having the skills to use a device and/or navigate the online environment with confidence;
  • choosing not to use the internet and/or learn the necessary skills required.[1]

Digital exclusion varies across different demographics of UK society. Some of the main factors linked to the digital divide in the UK include age, region, socioeconomic status and whether a person has a disability. The Covid-19 pandemic prompted many services and activities to move online, raising concerns about deepening digital exclusion. The economic impacts are thought to be extensive, and several recent studies have indicated the potential to unlock economic growth by addressing the digital divide.

Ninety-five per cent of UK premises reportedly have access to a superfast broadband connection. The Government’s target is for at least 85 per cent to have access to faster gigabit-broadband by 2025.[2] However, access to a connection does not mean that a household can afford to or will choose to pay for broadband and/or mobile data.

Cost of living pressures may be pushing more people into digital exclusion. Lloyds’ Consumer Digital Index for example found that by May 2022 an estimated 35 per cent of the population reported that the rising cost of living was impacting their ability to go online.

Digital exclusion may in turn exacerbate cost of living pressures. Items bought online can be cheaper than in shops; research commissioned by Vodafone suggested that households without internet could spend £286 a month more on average. In an increasingly online world, digital exclusion inhibits people’s ability to apply for jobs, access training opportunities and engage with many public services. Evidence indicates that people on lower incomes are more likely to be digitally excluded; this risks compounding economic disadvantage and increasing inequality. Interventions to address this relationship have the potential to reduce taxpayer burdens, improve individual livelihoods and unlock economic growth.

Inquiry questions

1. What are the main causes of digital exclusion in the UK? What is the economic and social impact?

2. How has the rising cost of living affected digital exclusion?

     a) To what extent does digital exclusion exacerbate cost of living pressures?

     b)What are the long-term implications of this relationship?

3. What are the obstacles to greater digital inclusion? Where is policy intervention likely to have the greatest impact over the next 12 months and 5 years?

     a) To what extent would these changes help unlock economic growth?

4. How effective are Government initiatives at addressing digital exclusion? What further action is needed, and what should be done to provide offline access to services?

5. How well are existing industry initiatives (for example cheaper internet tariffs) addressing digital exclusion? How could they be enhanced?

6. How effective is civil society at supporting digital inclusion? How could this work be enhanced, and what is the appropriate balance between civil society and Government intervention?

7. What lessons can the UK learn from abroad?

The Committee invites written contributions by Tuesday 7 March.



[1]    See Ofcom, Digital exclusion (2022):

[2]    Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport & Building Digital UK, ‘Project Gigabit Delivery Plan – autumn update 2022’ (30 November 2022):

This call for written evidence has now closed.

Go back to Digital exclusion and the cost of living Inquiry