UK-research: education, Age and Class Continue to Create a ‘Digital Divide’

In this new published study based on UK-data we see that the digital divide is still present in the UK. Education, age and class continue to create a ‘digital divide’ in internet use and access.

From the press release:

The proportion of respondents reporting Internet access rose from 43 per cent to over 71 per cent over the nine years covered.

However, individuals in occupational classes ABC1 – roughly corresponding to “middle class” – were still over three and half times more likely to report having online access compared to those in classes C2DE – roughly denoting “working class” – in 2010.

Education and age were also found to be strongly related to access. Respondents who had stayed in full-time education beyond the age of 16 or had recently participated in learning were more than twice as likely to have Internet access  while those aged over 65 years were five times less likely to report be able to go online at home.

Using the Internet for banking, purchasing, looking for work and accessing government services all rose over the period studied but were still minority activities, even among those with Internet access at home.

Being younger, a member of class ABC1 and having a history of educational participation increased the chances of making online purchases, and class and education were similarly related to accessing government services online.

Class was also related to using online banking services, while youth and education were the most important factors in increasing the likelihood of using the Internet to look for work. Ethnicity was only strongly linked to one of the uses, with those describing themselves as White being more likely to purchase goods or services online. After other factors has been controlled for, no substantial differences between male and females were found, suggesting there is little in the way of a ‘sex divide’ in terms of basic access and use.

Abstract of the research:

This paper presents the results of multi-variate analyses of the social, economic and educational characteristics associated with reporting both access to the Internet and using the Internet for four key purposes: banking and finance, purchasing goods or services, accessing government or official services and looking for work or employment. The research was conducted using nationally representative, individual-level, repeated cross-sectional data (n = 47,001) collected in annual surveys in the UK between 2002 and 2010. The results of the analyses show that although Internet access and use have increased over the period studied, both continue to be structured according to occupational class, educational background and, to some extent, age. The sex and ethnicity of respondents had little impact on the probability of reporting Internet access and were only strongly related to using the Internet for purchasing goods or services. Additionally, the presence of children in a household was unimportant in relation to both Internet access or use. While the findings differ slightly from previous studies they confirm that both Internet access and use remain structured along socio-economic and educational lines that work against already disadvantaged groups. This has remained the case in the UK throughout the 2000s despite considerable technological change and policy interventions specifically targeting marginalized sections of society. The paper concludes that policy interventions aimed at both increasing and widening Internet access and use will be ineffective unless the social, rather than technological, basis of inequalities in access and use are recognized.

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