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Interventions to address digital exclusion improves engagement, skills, and confidence, says new report

Published: 28 March 2024

A review of existing evidence produced by Public Health Wales as part of the collaboration with the Health and Care Research Wales Evidence Centre shows that interventions to address digital exclusion in older adults can increase uptake and digital literacy while also improving people's own perception of their own abilities, and willingness to use technology. 

However, the research also shows that structural barriers, like access to the internet and affordability of devices, need to be addressed in order to reduce ‘digital exclusion’, particularly in older adults. 

‘Digital exclusion’ describes the impact on those people who don’t want to, or are unable to use digital technologies, such as using online services or social media.   

Older adults are the largest proportion of people who do not use the internet, and it is important for public bodies to understand how to support older adults to overcome the challenges they face with accessing digital technologies.  

The report, which is a rapid review of existing evidence gleaned from 21 primary studies carried out between 2018 and 2023 across 14 different countries, favours carrying out a range of actions to reduce digital exclusion, such as interventions incorporated into existing services, or involving gamification, taking an intergenerational approach, tailored computer software or teaching specific digital literacy skills like being able to identify scams. 

The evidence showed that a range of interventions can increase digital literacy and increase uptake, and also improve people’s own perception of their own abilities, and willingness to use technology. 

However the report found that the evidence was of low certainty due to the poor methodological quality of the studies, as well as the difficulty in making comparisons between the different pieces of research. 

Hannah Shaw, Principle Evidence and Knowledge Analyst for the Observatory at Public Health Wales, said: “This review of evidence demonstrates the need for further high quality evaluation in this vital area of digital exclusion. 

“The number of older adults who are not using the internet or other technology is significant, and as more services and information is delivered online then it is extremely important that this group is not ‘left behind’. 

“I look forward to seeing new good quality evaluations conducted in this area to gain greater understanding of the challenges in this area, so we can work to reduce digital exclusion in Wales.”