Bridging the Gap: Ireland’s Digital Divide highlights concerns that a portion of the population in Ireland are ‘digitally disenfranchised’.
A new report from Accenture has shown that at least 25pc of the Irish population is excluded from an “increasingly digital society” because of socioeconomic reasons. This is leading to a “two-speed digital economy”, in which large groups of people are likely to be left behind, according to the report.
Bridging the Gap: Ireland’s Digital Divide includes results from a survey of 1,001 citizens in Ireland who were asked to assess their own digital competencies. Findings saw 42pc of participants describe themselves as ‘average or below’ for digital skills and one-quarter said they have ‘excellent’ digital abilities.
The divide in digital literacy in Ireland will potentially widen as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Accenture said, as more people are driven to doing errands online, such as shopping.
A major contributing factor to the divide, the company said, is that people in Ireland are “digitally disenfranchised”. Less direct exposure to technology and fewer educational opportunities to understand it, the report highlights, have “further isolated already marginalised communities”.
The report also shows a generational split, with older people expressing lower confidence levels in their digital skills. Those over the age of 45 reported the lowest levels of confidence in their digital literacy, with 60pc of people between 55 and 64 describing their skills as below average and 70pc of those over 65 reporting the same.
Accenture Ireland’s managing director, Alastair Blair, described the digital divide in Ireland as a “gap between the ‘haves and have nots’”.
“Now, more than ever, we need to come together to tackle this divide and maximise our potential by empowering Irish citizens with the skills they need to thrive in a digital society,” Blair said.
“This will contribute to building our skills base, which will not only support our nation’s economic recovery but will further position Ireland at the leading edge of those nations that are adopting and benefitting from the rapidly accelerating digitisation of the world economy.”
More than one in five survey participants said they don’t use online banking and almost 20pc reported not feeling confident carrying out “basic financial transactions” online.
A number of respondents also reported resistance to installing apps or software, with nearly one-third of all participants saying they were “not at all confident” doing so and 49pc saying they weren’t comfortable creating and editing online documents.
Finally, Accenture’s report highlights a link between low digital skills and greater risk of being negatively impacted by online scams. More than two-thirds (70pc) of participants who have attained a maximum of second-level education said they are not confident in their capacity to identify “fake or unreliable information”. According to the report, people over the age of 55 with fewer social skills were also found to be less confident identifying false information online.
Vicky Godolphin, a managing director and head of digital at Accenture Ireland, said: “The digital divide in Ireland is real. Our report highlights the gap between those who have the confidence, skills and ability to engage with digital services, and those who don’t.
“If all the stakeholders come together to tackle the divide, digital skills could become a real equaliser in Ireland, supporting efforts to tackle societal challenges such as loneliness and inequality and helping create more opportunities for many more of our citizens.”