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Powys: The offline capital of Wales

 
Created on 30/04/2021 @ 10:55

 

Exclusive data analysis by web design and development agency Rouge Media, reveals Powys had the largest digital divide in Wales in 2020, with 20.3% of the local population living offline – up from 14.4% in 2019. 

Over recent years, there’s been a growing focus on so-called “internet non-users” as part of the debate about the digital divide and its impact on inclusion. And the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the digital divide like never before, as communication and many vital services moved online.

However, many people are also opting for the internet-free off-grid lifestyle that can also be enjoyed in our rural countryside. The county also has a larger-than-national average of those aged over 60. 

According to the latest ONS data analysed by Rouge Media, 249,000 adults over the age of 16 in Wales reported they had never used the internet or hadn’t used it in the past three months compared to 262,000 in 2019 before the pandemic hit.

This is a year-on-year decrease of 13,000 people and the lowest since records began. 

However, during the same time period the percentage of residents in Powys living offline rose from 14.4% (15,000 residents) to 20.3% (22,000 residents) – the highest of any area in Wales and third highest in the UK, behind Luton and Dumfries & Galloway.

Since 2017, the Powys area has shown progress in reducing its digital divide, with lapsed or internet non-users falling from 16.4% percent (18,000 people) to 14.4%  (15,000 people) in 2019.

However, the number of lapsed and internet non-users in Powys has remained consistently higher than the national average for four years running - standing at 9.8% in 2020 as the country entered into the emergency phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This means many local residents were left unable to access important online services or benefit from communication apps during the first national lockdown last year.

With the population of Powys over the age of 60 higher than the national average in England and Wales, the digital divide between generations could be contributing to this trend. So too, could the widely reported issue of internet speeds in the area which are 39.5% slower than the UK average of 32.89 Mbps. 

As the portion of the population who were born before the internet becomes smaller and the first generation of “digital natives” reach adulthood, the digital divide is expected to close further and at an accelerated rate across Wales and the whole of the UK.

However, enduring social and economic issues will remain, preventing people from using or benefiting from the internet fully. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased inequalities between rich and poor households, squeezing budgets further.

You can read more about the study and explore the findings on an interactive map at https://www.rouge-media.com/uk-internet-non-users/.

Andy Woods, Director of Rouge Media commented on the findings: “It’s clear that while positive progress has been made, an enduring digital divide remains nationwide which appears to be impacting older residents and poorer households unequally. The Covid-19 pandemic has made this issue more pressing to address, so that every resident who is digitally capable is able to benefit from the internet.”

 

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