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How do we solve digital exclusion in a cost of living crisis?

8 February 2023

The Communications and Digital Committee is launching an inquiry into digital exclusion and the cost of living. The Committee invites written contributions by Tuesday 7 March.

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”. The Covid-19 pandemic prompted many services and activities to move online, raising concerns about deepening digital exclusion.

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, as items bought online can be cheaper than in shops. In an increasingly online world, digital exclusion inhibits people’s ability to apply for jobs, access training opportunities and engage with many public services.

Recent reports suggest that tackling digital exclusion could have significant benefits for economic growth and individual wellbeing.

Chair's Comment

Commenting on the launch, Baroness Stowell of Beeston, Chair of the Committee, says:

“The ability and resources to operate effectively online are increasingly vital for everyone. Many aspects of life now operate exclusively online.

“Tackling the digital divide will be vital for delivering growth and economic prosperity. It is clear that for many people there are significant barriers to operating effectively online. These barriers can include a lack of confidence, a lack of digital skills, poor access to appropriate broadband, and poverty preventing access to equipment or internet access. The last of these is likely to be made worse by the current cost of living pressures.

“Our inquiry will look at how the rising cost of living will affect digital exclusion and limit growth; crucially will seek to identify solutions and how the issue can be tackled.”

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 to its inquiry by Tuesday 7 March 2023.

Further information