The who, where and why of Digital Deprivation in the UK

Point Topic’s new Index highlights the at risk areas

Broadband adoption in the UK has been researched in depth for some years. Developments have been tracked, supply has been reviewed and the population has been questioned. With our increasing understanding of the economic, social and educational advantages of being online, and the looming requirement for internet access for certain services, it is clear that overall internet adoption brings a positive outcome for an individual and for society.

As the UK moves towards 95 per cent fixed ‘superfast’ coverage by the end of the decade, attention has been shifting to those for whom the physical availability of a network is not the only barrier to adoption.

Broadband digital deprivation is a looming challenge for the UK.  The focus on broadband coverage has, quite properly, dominated the conversation for the last few years.  Now though the actual take-up of a service is of as much concern when it comes to getting  the UK online.

Point Topic has released a new tool to help locate the non-adopters and highlight the specific localised issues that need to be addressed to help bring broadband and the internet, and its many advantages, to as much of the UK population as possible.  The first generation of the Broadband Digital Deprivation Index has now been published.

Who and why?

In order to locate the non-adopters we  reviewed the factors that are associated with low adoption.  Extensive research has already taken place around the UK on why people aren’t online, notably from the ONS, Ofcom and Oxford University.  There is information available on which groups are likely to be non-adopters.

After analysing the outputs and selecting our groupings we were then able to establish the seven predictors of non-adoption (age, education, income, availability, disability, the composition of a household and the type of residence) and determine which factors have a positive or negative effect on broadband take-up.

We have constructed a causal loop diagram of the primary predictors of non-adoption of the internet in the UK.

Figure 1: The predictors of non-adoption of the internet

Predictors of non-adoptin



Increase in income for example is positively associated with an increase in broadband adoption, so it is assigned a (+) symbol.  The older someone is the less likely they are to have internet access at home and the ‘age’ predictor is therefore accompanied with a (-) sign.


Combining this review of evidence with our own experience we present the Broadband Digital Deprivation Index as a basis for understanding what sort of issues will be a challenge and where when it comes to addressing low take-up of broadband and the internet.

Figure 2:  The risk of Digital Deprivation in England – June 2013

LSOA Digital Deprivation


The index absorbs ranking inputs from several sources, including the Index of Multiple Deprivation as well as Point Topic’s own research, to assign a rank for each component of the BDDI across England according to how at risk that area is from low broadband take-up.

Local Government Authorities, like Tendring in Essex where two of the ten most at risk areas sit, are well aware that they face a challenge and there are already a number of initiatives underway to address some of the shortfall in internet penetration.

“Training for those who need it, programmes to address the cost of getting online in the first place and then the affordability of subscriptions or adding other options that can aid internet access.  Improved coverage with wifi for example coupled with awareness campaigns are examples of programmes already running in the UK.

We’ve come some way but as ever the last few million will be just as hard if not harder to transit online as all those before them,” says Oliver Johnson, Point Topic’s CEO.

Purchase the full report

The full version of the 32-page PDF report and the supporting Excel database containing the Broadband Digital Deprivation Index for all 32,000 LSOAs is included in Point Topic’s UK Plus service or can be purchased on its own for £245 + VAT. Click on the contents page for more details. Please contact Toby French on +44 (0)20 3301 3303 or e-mail for more details.

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