In 2013 the UK Government launched its ‘digital by default’ strategy and now, central and local government mostly operate a self-service online model.

In the context of austerity, this makes sense completely, especially as 9 out of 10 households have Internet access, with nearly 8 out of 10 adults accessing the Internet on the go.

But where does that leave people who can’t or don’t want to use the internet?

ONS launched a new report in May 2019 that has some interesting figures, with some marked contrasts between regions and also a significant gap between those categorised as ‘Equality Act Disabled’ and not.

16.5% disability gap 
94.8% of people in the UK had used the Internet in the past 3 months, but those categorised as ‘Equality Act Disabled’ totals 78.3%. Looking at those who have never accessed the Internet, 18.2% of disabled people have never used it vs 4.1% who are not disabled.

69% age gap
The most startling divide is age. Focusing on those who have never used the Internet, the figures are negligible (<5%) for working age people (up to 64), except in Northern Ireland. But from 65+ no Internet use ranges from 9.5% in South West England to 27% in Northern Ireland.

Looking specifically at England, the most stark comparison is the South West and Yorkshire and the Humber. Around a third of people over the age of 75 in the South West have never accessed the Internet, but this increases to a whopping 54% in Yorkshire/Humber.

Regional, age and disability variances make it clear that planning requires local insight to inform developments and choice of communications channels.