Broadband News

Ofcom publishes results of research into people's online habits

One of the many roles of Ofcom is to help promote media literacy and as part of this Ofcom publishes various reports and the latest is qualitative analysis from a set of workshops in six locations around the UK where people shared their experiences of the internet.

"Key findings

The role that the internet plays in people's lives varied widely, primarily dictated by their levels of digital literacy.

For those with high and medium digital literacy, the internet was integrated into their lives and either was, or was fast becoming, their primary way to make purchases and contact friends.


Among those with low digital literacy, however, being competent online was felt to be a requirement, to the extent that they sometimes felt as though they were being 'forced' online. Those with lower digital literacy often felt that online communication was replacing more valuable face-to-face contact and lamented this fact. The key online activity for this group was information-seeking, as it was perceived to be relatively safe and easy to perform."

Extract from Ofcom report

The results may not be surprising to some, but if you are in the group of people who do almost everything online these days it is very easy to forget that there are a vast range of users of the Internet with very different skill sets.

The printing press was a big revolution in how information was shared, replacing hand written books, the 20th century produced radio, TV and cinema and the 21st Century is making even more information available to people and how individuals and society as a whole behave online is making more information available, though with the risk that those with less skills may be left behind.

We are sure many of our visitors have helped friends, family and neighbours with Internet access and computer issues over the years, but if you are someone who needs help and has no handy people you trust to show you how to do some online activities, UK Online centres have a useful searchable map showing where various courses and drop-in centres are located to help people improving their online skills.


Am I alone in considering the phrase "low digital literacy" to be offensive and pejorative?

  • John_Gray
  • over 7 years ago

I suspect that for quite a few of the "digitally excluded" it's wilful - face to face contact is the only way they have any company. But a computer screen abolishes loneliness doesn't it?

  • mervl
  • over 7 years ago

"Low digital literacy" is an ugly phrase but I don't think it is offensive. I know several intelligent, competant people, who have no interest in all the aggro and expense it takes to get on line. They have no use for a £500 PC and the extra £10/20 per month on the phone bill. Mind you, if I set it up, they will use it. But they live quite happily without it; don't trust on-line banking, will phone or write rather than email and the idea of "friends" on Facebook is just laughable. They have a point.

  • bobdelamare
  • over 7 years ago

I'm not sure literacy is the issue. My Dad isn't too bad these days but he just doesn't see the point of 'new' technology.

He'd rather read the telegraph TV guide to find out what's on that peruse the EPG on his PVR.

He waits until 1pm, 6pm, 10pm to get the news because that's when the BBC broadcast it.

He'd rather buy from catalogues received through the mail (by phone) than use the web (although he does use Amazon now and again so knows how to).

It just seems that the 'new digital world' doesn't interest him much.

  • AndrueC
  • over 7 years ago

(cont'd) then again he's 81 and can send email (something he likes) and knows how to browse if the mood takes him.

He's happy enough so I don't think it worth worrying about. It's the refusniks or those without a connection or computer who are more of an issue.

  • AndrueC
  • over 7 years ago

I always asked why they so bothered about those choosing to not use the internet, and the answer I now believe is that with the internet and electronic transactions the government gains a degree of control. The perfect future for the government is when there is no such thing as paper money.

  • chrysalis
  • over 7 years ago

QUOTE Am I alone in considering the phrase "low digital literacy" to be offensive and pejorative? QUOTE


  • nrflux
  • over 7 years ago

In Wiltshire we have Digital Champions,willing to help anyone improve their communications using modern media. Clearly many do not have the confidence or knowledge and skills to use a computer and are therefore scared of them. Not helped by all the malicious messages and scams. Many older people are happy with the radio (not usually DAB), TV (but preferred analogue to digital) and the landline telephone. It works for them and that's all they want in many cases. Modern technology does not appeal to all. I help locally as a volunteer and meet a wide range of interests - and fears!

  • michaels_perry
  • over 7 years ago

As an older user who first encountered computers with remote access nearly 50 years and have NVQs in computer installation and maintenance, I have very great sympathy with new users without knowledgeable friends close at hand. Try solving a problem with a misbehaving system when you are alone and have no alternative means to, or experience of, investigating on-line help without a supportive friend or relative within shouting distance. Low digital literacy is not pejorative description, it is a fact for many of my generation.

  • bsg017
  • over 7 years ago

Neither pejorative nor inaccurate, any more than to say people who cannot read are illiterate, though I would prefer to say they can't read.
I'm 90 and am literate on both counts. I sometimes use digital technology but not all the time. My choice. so?

  • champney1066
  • over 7 years ago

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