Around 10.2 million (20%) UK adults lack the Foundation Level of digital skills
The Foundation Level consists of eight tasks considered to be the fundamental basics to getting online. In 2022, 80% of UK adults have the Foundation Level i.e. can complete these eight Foundation tasks by themselves. Overall, 4% of the UK adult population are unable to do any of these Foundation tasks and are considered to be ‘digitally disengaged’. Compared to UK average, the most distinctive attributes for this group are that they are more likely to be aged 75+, retired or living alone.
Of the eight Foundation tasks, the greatest hurdle to being able to achieve the Foundation Level is the ability to set up connection to a Wi-Fi network, which c.6.7 million (13%) of the UK adult population are unable to do by themselves. In light of the ongoing cost of living crisis in 2022, for some it will be essential to be able to connect to free access Wi-Fi. Thus, there is an even greater importance to ensure UK adults can connect to the Internet inside or outside of the home. Half (52%) of those who claim they are unable to afford to start using an Internet or mobile data plan of their own do not have the Foundation Level (versus 20% UK average).
Another level of digital skill UK adults can achieve is Essential Digital Skills for Life (also known as Life EDS). This demonstrates engagement with the digital skills needed to thrive in society, by being able to do at least one task within five Life skills categories. This includes the ability to do tasks such as using search engines, communicating via email or messaging applications, and acting with caution online. 88% of the UK adult population have Life EDS. There are c.2.7 million UK adults unable to do any of the 26 Life tasks. Crucially, if an individual is unable to do any these tasks, they may be at risk of feeling left out from our increasingly online society. As seen with the Foundation Level, attainment of Life EDS is strongly linked to age, being retired and living alone.
Updates to the measurement of Work EDS reveal skill gaps based on working status
The measurement of Essential Digital Skills for Work (also known as Work EDS) has been adapted in the last year, as it is now also measured amongst those who are not in paid work but are not retired. This allows a view of the workplace skills of those who make up the UK labour force sample, some of which may be job seeking.
78% of the UK labour force sample have Work EDS, which similarly to Life EDS is defined as being able to do at least one task within each of the five Work skills categories. When splitting this out amongst employed and not employed groups, there is a gap in attainment of 22 percentage points. While 82% of employed participants have Work EDS, this is 60% for those not employed. This may put these people at risk of falling behind their counterparts should they re-enter the workplace.
The full Work EDS results will be published in early 2023.
Ipsos interviewed 4,099 participants aged 18+ years in the UK (Great Britain and Northern Ireland) via their telephone Omnibus between 13th April – 13th May 2022. Quotas on sample are set on age, gender, region and working status. Data are weighted to represent the UK population in terms of age, social grade, region and working status within the gender variable and additional profiles on tenure and ethnicity using PAMCo data. Data are further weighted on device ownership using data derived from a robust national survey. Within this report we have included population estimates from the survey data based on ONS 2020 mid-year stats for the UK. Full details of the range of extrapolation based on the margin of errors, are available in the full technical note.