University of Liverpool-led research on the Minimum Digital Living Standard has been referenced in a House of Lords committee report on digital exclusion published today, Thursday 29 June.
Giving evidence to the committee, Simeon Yates, Professor of Digital Culture in the Department of Communication and Media, warned that tackling digital exclusion was rarely near the top of the Government’s ‘to do’ list, despite millions of citizens falling behind in navigating an increasingly online world.
Professor Yates also highlighted that Government working groups on digital exclusion had been disbanded because addressing digital exclusion had not been seen as “priority.”
The report, published by the Lords Communications and Digital Committee, flagged that 1.7m UK households have no broadband or mobile internet access at home and that 2.4 million people cannot complete a single basic task to get online such as opening an internet browser or connecting to a Wi-Fi network. The report further cited research estimating that 5 million workers will be “acutely underskilled” in basic digital skills, such as using communication tools like Microsoft Teams, by 2030.
Up to 1 million people have also cut off their broadband access due to the cost of living crisis, making those worst off more vulnerable to digital exclusion.
The Committee urges the Government to adopt a new digital inclusion strategy which focussed on teaching basic digital skills, removing VAT on social tariffs offered by internet providers and encouraging alternative broadband networks.
The recommendations set out by the Committee align with research from the University of Liverpool, Loughborough University, City University, Good Things Foundation and the Welsh Government who are currently conducting wide-ranging research to tackle digital exclusion.
Earlier this year the University of Liverpool led-team, funded by the Nuffield Foundation and Nominet, set out a ground-breaking Minimum Digital Living Standard (MDLS) based on research with members of the public, which includes a basket of goods, services and skills that families need to be digitally included. The team is currently conducting a UK-wide survey involving 1,500 households with children to identify how many households meet or fall below the standard.
MDLS, which is already being adopted by the Welsh Government, provides a vital benchmark for government, industry and civil society organisations to address digital exclusion and work together to help ensure households have what they need for digital inclusion.
Professor Simeon Yates said: “The House of Lords committee report today is clear that we need a credible strategy for tackling digital inclusion to prevent basic digital skills becoming the UK’s biggest skills gap within the next ten years.
“Preventing digital exclusion is paramount so that people can connect, engage and not miss out on opportunities. Our work on the Minimum Digital Living Standard is key in helping to ensure that people’s lived experience of the digital world and digital exclusion is emphasised to policymakers, and I look forward to continuing our work with stakeholders in this vital area.”
Read the full House of Lords Committee report on Digital Exclusion here.