Ofcom finds number of homes without internet access falls from 11% to 6%
Ofcom has seen a big drop in the number of homes without internet access in March 2020 this was 11% of homes but the 2021 figures show that this has fallen 6%. 6% sounds small but this does equate to 1.5 million properties.
The pandemic has meant that being able to shop online was more important than ever before and for families video calls were often the only way to stay in touch in relatives and new arrivals to families. There will also have been a lot of help from relatives and especially younger people playing the role of IT support and digital enablers i.e. helping people setup new devices and embracing the world of video calls. Remote support is some of the hardest to do especially if supporting someone who is new to the technology e.g. what may seem as intuitive to millions of us in terms touch screen use when no recognisable visual clues are present can be very confusing for others.
The goal now policy wise seems to be to work hard to get the remaining 6% online, but while getting everyone online will have big benefits for how public services and the wider economy operates Ofcom and others pushing for everyone to be online need to do this carefully. The problem being that as the number not online shrinks councils and other bodies will shrink their physical footprint and life will become harder for those not able to afford internet connectivity or those who simply choose to not live their life online. A good example is the ever decreasing number of cash points which will no doubt accelerate now that contactless purchases are common, but online payment systems can break unintentially or deliberately.
or many people, lockdown will leave a lasting legacy of improved online access and better digital understanding. But for a significant minority of adults and children, it’s only served to intensify the digital divide.
We’ll continue to work with Government and other partner organisations to promote digital literacy and ensure that people of all ages and backgrounds are empowered to share in the benefits of the internet.Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Strategy and Research Group Director
The Ofcom report talks about proxy users where people without connectivity at home have got someone else to do something for them, this means that around 60% of the homes not online have asked someone to help with an online task and the most common thing was buying something online (57% response in the survey).
Looking ahead if things do return to the old normal it will be interesting to see how much society has changed i.e. will online grocey shopping remain at the scale it is now or will people be keen to get back to the shops for the mixture of socialising and being able to pick and choose what they want. We suspect lots of people will keep a fairly standard delivery going and supermarket trips will reduce to basket shops rather than full trolley loads.
In short 2020 was the year of online escapism because that was really all there was to do but 2021 will see a big desire to return to physical experiences.