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More households in Wales now have access to the internet but some people are being left behind

09 March 2023
  • There are benefits from moving services online but it can lead to some people being digitally excluded

    Our report provides an overview of the complex issues relevant to digital inclusion in Wales.

    Being ‘digitally included’ means being willing and able to use digital tools or services independently. ‘Digitising’ means moving services online and/or using technology to deliver services. There can be many benefits from digitising public and other services but there is a risk that the needs of digitally excluded people are overlooked.

    Our report highlights that:

    • 7% of adults in Wales are digitally excluded.
    • 14% of social housing residents are excluded.
    • 12% of those with a limiting long-term illness are excluded.
    • 95% of premises in Wales can receive superfast broadband.

    While there is data available to show high-level trends, it does not give a complete picture of people’s lived experience in different parts of Wales, including challenges in rural areas

    The main reasons for people being digitally excluded in Wales are:

    • digital infrastructure not being available.
    • not being able to afford digital devices or internet costs, especially with the rising cost of living.
    • lack of skills, motivation and confidence to use the internet.
    • needing additional help to use and access technology, and being able to use the language of their choice.
    • choosing not to use online services and wanting to access services in person.
    • worries about online safety and security.

     Some people told us about their experiences of digital inclusion and exclusion:

    • “I’m not always interested in accessing online services. I prefer face-to-face or to speak to someone on the phone.”
    • Affording the internet is … “just about manageable …”
    • “I carry an anxiety that things are moving very fast and will soon move too quickly away from my current skills and knowledge.”

    While the UK Government is responsible for digital infrastructure across the UK, the Welsh Government is investing in improving broadband infrastructure. Through various public and private funding programmes, the percentage of households that have access to the internet has steadily increased since 2012. Welsh Government funded broadband projects since 2012 include Superfast Cymru, Access Broadband Cymru, Next Generation Access Broadband Wales and the Local Broadband Fund. Public funding for these projects, including from other sources, amounts to around £300 million.

    The Digital Strategy for Wales [opens in new window] sets out goals to help people gain greater confidence in the digital world. The report outlines Welsh Government financial support for the work of Digital Communities Wales (currently £2 million a year) and the Centre for Digital Public Services (currently £4.9 million a year), which aims to support and help individuals and public services with digitisation and digital inclusion.

    The Welsh Government has invested heavily in improving broadband infrastructure and the past few years have shown how reliant many of us have become on good quality internet access. However, spending on infrastructure needs to be balanced with work to tackle the root causes of digital exclusion to manage the risk of creating a two-tier society when it comes to access to public and other services. We have published a key questions document alongside this report to help public bodies reflect on their approach to digital inclusion. Adrian Crompton, Auditor General

    Related Report

    Digital inclusion in Wales

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