Nine million people unable to use internet before lockdown

Nine million people were unable to use the internet by themselves prior to lockdown, lacking the basic skills required to communicate, shop or bank online.

Nine million people could not use the internet by themselves.

Research carried out before the introduction of lockdown restrictions by Lloyds Bank showed that 22 per cent of the UK population lack the digital skills needed for everyday life, with 11 per cent per cent unable to turn on a device and 12 per cent unable to connect a device to a Wi-Fi network by themselves.

Furthermore, 25 per cent of the population were unable to use video calling apps, like FaceTime and Skype.

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Even before lockdown, people with high levels of digital engagement recognised the benefits of these skills, with 87 per cent saying it helps them stay connected to friends and family, 61 per cent say it improved their ability to get a job, and 44 per cent reporting it helps manage and improve their physical and mental health.

Stephen Noakes, managing director of retail transformation for Lloyds Bank, which runs a digital academy to help improve digital skills and confidence with technology, said: “The impact of lockdown has brought into sharp focus just how important digital skills are, when all of a sudden it may be the only way for some people to stay connected to loved ones, buy food or get hold of other essential items such as medicine.

“While this unprecedented situation may have a greater impact on those who remain digitally excluded than those who are online, it is encouraging that this has focused people’s attention on digital capability as a vital life skill.”

According to a separate poll in the last few weeks of UK lockdown, three quarters of the population now believe that the situation has escalated the need to be online and eight out of 10 people have felt that technology has been a vital support during the outbreak.

One in three have taken action and boosted their digital skills, with almost a third reporting they have up-skilled for work reasons, while 37 per cent are using technology more than usual to help with health and wellbeing.

Of those who have improved their skills, over half are self-taught, with a quarter calling upon family members for support and one in five relying on friends.

More than one in three have also helped other people improve their digital skills during this period, with young people leading the way. Around half of younger people aged between 18 and 34 have assisted others with getting online. Staying in touch with others is the most popular reason to ask for help, with almost two thirds of people helping their family members to use apps such as Zoom or WhatsApp. This is followed by banking and shopping.

The latest Consumer Digital Index from Lloyds Bank also shows that without any intervention, by 2030, a quarter of the UK will still have a very low level of digital engagement.

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