A new report released by the Oxford Internet Institute (University of Oxford) and Communities and Local Government (CLG) indicates that technological forms of exclusion are a reality for significant segments of the UK population, and that they can reinforce and deepen existing disadvantages.
The report ‘Digital Inclusion: An Analysis of Social Disadvantage and the Information Society’ lays out the social implications of exclusion from information technologies, drawing on data from multiple independent surveys conducted by the OII, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It is one of five reports commissioned by the UK government to inform its Digital Inclusion Action Plan launched on 24 October 2008 by Digital Inclusion minister Paul Murphy.
OII Director Professor William Dutton said: “This study has shown that digital disengagement is persistent and related to social disadvantage. Technology is so tightly woven into the fabric of society today that ICT deprivation can be rightly considered alongside other social deprivations such as low income, unemployment, poor education, ill health and social isolation.”
He continued: “The implications of these findings indicate that digital disengagement is very relevant to social policy goals—and that these goals will be increasingly difficult to realise as mainstream society continues to embrace the changes in our information society while those on the margins are left further behind.”
Minister for Digital Inclusion Paul Murphy said: “We all recognise that new technologies and the Internet are changing our communities and wider society. As the Oxford Internet Institute’s research shows, addressing Digital Inclusion is vital as some people in our society who are already socially excluded are falling even further behind because they do not have access to the technology that most of us take for granted.
“The ongoing work of the Oxford Internet Institute is at the forefront of developing our understanding of the key issues, and I thank them for their continued insightful research in this area.”
Conclusions and Policy Recommendations
- Policies to support social inclusion can make a difference to engagement with technology.
- Online government initiatives are not reaching the most excluded and consideration of other available electronic channels is particularly important for service designers to engage some socially disadvantaged groups.
- The potential for the Internet to address social isolation and economic disadvantage is largely untapped.
- Access quality, locations of access and attitudes towards technologies remain important barriers and enablers that government policy and delivery can influence.
- Government and its partners need to focus on tackling key barriers and enablers for the most disadvantaged.
- Government and its partners need to be able to disentangle digital choices from digital exclusion and to address both.
‘Digital Inclusion: An Analysis of Social Disadvantage and the Information Society’: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/digitalinclusionanalysis
Notes for Editors
- The Oxford Internet Institute is a department within the Social Sciences Division of the University of Oxford. It is a leading world centre for the multidisciplinary study of the Internet and society, focusing on Internet-related research and teaching, and on informing policy-making and practice.
- Communities and Local Government (CLG) sets policy on local government, housing, urban regeneration, planning and fire and rescue. It has have responsibility for all race equality and community cohesion related issues in England.
- The Office for National Statistics (ONS) produces independent information to improve our understanding of the United Kingdom’s economy and society.
- The Office of Communications (Ofcom) is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications service.