The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

Report highlights the countrysides digital exclusion problem

Citizens Advice help people get their lives back on track through advice

This gives them a body of data from which to spot how people’s lives are changing and some clues as to what would help improve them.

The Citizens Advice Rural group focuses on ensuring people in the country have parity of access to advice. 

Over the past 10 years, they have seen, consistently, three BIG challenges – poor public transport, digital exclusion and extra costs of living in the country.

Their first report back in 2017 tackled transport and we were delighted to see the Government’s earlier announcement to increase bus usage. They are now keeping an eye on outcomes. 

They are now looking at the evidence from our client base on the level and impact of Rural Poverty.

This will be exacerbated by the rises in the cost of living for us all.

They will shortly share our 2022 report, on how this affects our rural clients. 

In between, in 2021, they studied digital exclusion. The hypothesis was that it was to do with broadband availability.  By last summer, it was clear that this is no longer the case. 

Government, business and communities have ensured 96% of households coverage.  The issue now is:

The full picture can be seen in a report they prepared last summer:

- ‘Computer Says No’ Full Report (download here)

- ‘Computer Says No’ Summary Report (download here)

Digital exclusion in the countryside means people are:

  • Unable to apply for jobs, or benefits
  • Unable to seek advice or other help
  • Unable/difficult to obtain supermarket delivery service – to protect those shielding and clinically vulnerable
  • Unable to see family and friends
  • Unable to learn new skills
  • Lacking social contact
  • Limited news/uninformed
  • Lacking entertainment – many people now play games and watch television/films online
  • Limited access to shopping and other services.

Evidence showed 7 predictors of non-adoption:

  • Income
  • Education
  • Social Housing
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Availability
  • Household composition 

They found that:

  • Older people and those living alone are less likely to take up digital offer; more so, those who are older and living alone.
  • 60% of people think ‘it’s not for me’ and many are fearful of cybercrime. 
  • People on low incomes have to choose between food and broadband.  Even an entry level phone costs 10% of income.
  • Literacy – our clients’ average reading age is 9.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Everyone: let’s all raise awareness of the drivers causing digital exclusion, particularly among the elderly and those living alone: 
    • Income pressure - choice between food and digital
    • ‘not for me’
    • low literacy skills, both reading and digital
    • fear of cybercrime
    • social isolation
  • Government: please restore funding for the Gigabit Programme; keep on targeting the last ‘hard to reach’ properties.
  • Citizens Advice: promote the benefits of digital inclusion to our clients and hope that others will follow

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