The government recently proposed a UK broadband delivery scheme. Its aim is to bring high speed internet to 95% of the UK by 2017; this would be with a £1 billion investment in improving broadband and mobile infrastructure.
A heat map has been produced by charity Go ON UK to shine light on the present state of Britain’s internet access. It highlights specific areas lacking availability of broadband and digital skills. The aim is to assist local authorities in order they can deliver a fundamental element of 21st century communication to all regions of the UK.
The study was conducted by focusing on four factors – infrastructure, access, basic digital skills and their level of application.
It was found that there is no single factor behind digital exclusion in the UK. Low usage of broadband and a lack of online skills were also caused by social factors, including age and income. In these cases the physical state of Britain’s ability to connect and communicate using the internet is irrelevant; complex problems within society have to be addressed to help find a solution.
This makes it hard to negotiate as areas of high social deprivation scored highly with regard to internet exclusion, despite their ability to physically access broadband. For example, Dundee and Torbay’s technological factors indicated a low likelihood of exclusion, whilst social indicators suggested a very high likelihood.
In sharp contrast, affluent areas such as Cambridge scored highly in social indicators but still had a substantial risk of overall exclusion.
It was found that Leeds has a medium level of exclusion, with only 9% of households in the city unable to access digital broadband speeds of at least at least 2Mbps.
13% of the adults in the city have apparently never been online. However 77% have all five Basic Digital Skills, with 36% of adults having used them in the past three months.
The likelihood is that the percentages who have had no contact with the internet are elderly citizens who see no real need to be online. In these cases questions must be asked as to whether internet access for all citizens is necessary. If the findings suggest individuals have made a choice not to go online then should such large sums of money still be spent?
These results will be of interest to the UK Government, which is already in the middle of its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project with BT.
The goal is to offer superfast broadbandof over 24Mbps to 90% of the UK by the beginning of 2016.