NI’s publicly funded Project Stratum has been criticised for apparently unfairly excluding some homes in the rural areas where it is working, providing access to some homes while deeming adjacent ones ineligible. The View Digital introduced new work on various aspects of digital exclusion in Northern Ireland, including amongst the elderly, in rural areas and amongst disadvantaged communities.
As Parliament discussed the issue of the ‘digital divide’, the Work and Pensions Committee chair noted,
2.6 million people still are not online. Ofcom reported in July that 2 million households struggle with the cost of broadband or smartphone services, with some staying offline as a result of those cost barriers. Ten million people also lack basic digital skills.
He added, “I am sorry to say that the Government’s digital inclusion strategy has not been updated since 2014”.
The UN International Telecommunication Union estimated that close to 3 billion people worldwide – over a third of the world’s population – have never used the internet, despite what it called the ‘Covid connectivity boost’ as more people relied on online communication during lockdowns. It judged that the vast majority of the digitally excluded – 96% – live in developing countries. The Devex network drew attention to similar global estimates, and said that women are disproportionately affected by digital exclusion.