Local differences in internet engagement

What are the local differences in how people engage with the internet?

Digital Exclusion is not a new topic. We know that even today, when people in the UK check their smartphones, on average, every 12 minutes of the waking day,  there is still a proportion of the population that lack access to the internet and the skills to be able to use it (as well as those people who actively choose to disengage with the internet).

We also know that many of those that are digitally excluded are already likely to experience other challenges, such as the elderly, unemployed, people with disabilities and those in social housing. However, there is a lack of data available at a local level on those groups that are digitally excluded and where they are.

Beyond the issue of digital exclusion, greater insight into how different people are using the internet can only be a good thing, and another tool that communications team can use to ensure that their messages are being delivered in the right way to the right people. This information could be used across the public and third sector to identify the most appropriate channels to communicate through, measure uptake of digital services and target digital literacy programmes.

The ESRC Consumer Data research Centre (CDRC) at UCL has developed a Classification of Internet Use – how people living in different parts of the country interact with the internet. Although this dataset alone doesn’t fill the data gap and can’t answer all questions relating to digital skills, it is great to see datasets that tackle this issue at small area level. It is equally great that the data is updated regularly, providing an up-to-date picture of internet use, as well as insights into how areas are changing over time.

These datasets are now available for you to use in Local Insight.

About the data

The classification uses data from the British Population Survey (BPS), which provides information on the behavioural characteristics of the population regarding various aspects of internet use. These are linked with demographic data from the Census and supplemented with data from online retailers and infrastructure data from Ofcom on download speed.

Every LSOA in England has been classified into 10 groups, detailed below.

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CDRC have also produced a pen portrait for each of these groups, providing a profile of how each group interacts with the internet in regards to e.g typical hardware owned, how often they use the internet and the extent to which they use the internet for communication and entertainment.

Of course, some caution should be taken when using this data in isolation to target services, as whole LSOAs are being assigned single classification types and there will likely be notable differences in internet behaviours within an LSOA.

How to access the data

You can download the raw data at LSOA level and Pen Portraits directly from the CDRC website once you have registered for an account. You can also explore the data in interactive maps from CDRC too without registering for an account.

We have also added each of these classifications into Local Insight. As we have mentioned previously, these datasets give a really important insight into how people engage with the internet – but they are not the whole story.

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To add these datasets to your maps and dashboard, use the Manage Indicators functionality. Search the Unassigned theme for ‘Internet User Classification’. You will be able to add each of the 10 groups to your maps and dashboards as individual indicators.

If you have any questions on these datasets, or suggestions for new ones to add, please get in touch on support@ocsi.co.uk