Going Mobile: New report by Mobile UK reveals 21% of us only access internet through smartphone

A new report by Mobile UK, the industry body for the UK’s Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), has highlighted the growing digital divide between urban and rural areas.

‘From Exclusion to Inclusion - How mobile connectivity can further narrow the digital divide’ also shows the vital role mobile networks are playing in addressing this.  Figures from the report show that 1.5 million households in the UK access the internet at home via a mobile rather than a broadband connection.  Furthermore, 6% of UK homes now have no access to the internet at all.

Commenting on the findings Mobile UK Director of Policy and Communication, Gareth Elliott said:

“Mobile connectivity is already fundamental to our daily lives yet its importance in the debate about digital inclusion is less understood. In this report, we highlight the growing reliance on mobile, particularly among vulnerable people, the barriers people face, and call on the government to address these issues with clear policy direction by updating the national inclusion strategy to tackle the digital divide.”

The report sets out five recommendations to readdress the balance:

  1. Creating a new digital inclusion strategy - the Government’s last digital strategy was 2014 – there is currently no central policy ownership
  2. Enabling investment to ensure connectivity is kept affordable - the investment capability of the UK’s mobile operators is challenged by declining average revenue per user. The report calls for the Government to implement a framework to narrow the investment gap, incentivise activity and ensure a positive landscape for improving mobile infrastructure.
  3. Promoting accessible and mobile-friendly websites as standard - 71% of smartphone users say it is more difficult to complete a form on a phone than a laptop. Universal standards for UK public bodies and the private sector would remove accessibility barriers.
  4. Using public services to promote digital inclusion - Public services both have significant contact points with the majority of digitally excluded people as well as a motivation to get them online so they can better access that public service.
  5. Central funding for regional and dedicate Digital Champions - Senior roles with political support are needed to coordinate digital policy and work with industry to smooth the way for the deployment of digital infrastructure.

RSN Chief Executive Kerry Booth says these findings are no surprise:

“Our recent Rural Lens Review on the Government’s Wireless Infrastructure Strategy highlighted many of these issues.  As always, these things come down to funding and timescales.  I would call on the new Rural Connectivity Champion, Simon Fell MP, to ensure this latest report is included in his planning for the next stages of the Government’s Connectivity plans.”

You can read the full report on the Mobile UK Digital Inclusion webpages here.  Mobile UK has also produced a helpful Toolkit for Local Authorities which can be found here.


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