‘Time for a reboot’ as digital skills across the UK outpace Wales

Figures released today (Monday) by the ONS show Wales to be the least digitally literate nation or area in the UK.


Out of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the nine English areas, Wales had the lowest proportion of its population in possession of the “Five Basic Digital Skills”: while the UK average was 79%, in Wales only 66% of people had these skills.


The second lowest – the East Midlands – still had 71%, while the South East of England had the highest rate, at 86%.


Wales also had the highest proportion of those with zero basic digital skills, with one in five (19%) Welsh people essentially illiterate when it comes to information technology. In comparison, second placed North East of England was way down at 12%.


The Tech Partnership Basic Digital Skills framework describes five basic digital skills that can be used to measure digital inclusion and the activities someone should be able to do to demonstrate each skill. These are:


  • managing information: using a search engine to look for information, finding a website visited before or downloading or saving a photo found online.
  • communicating: sending a personal message via email or online messaging service or carefully making comments and sharing information online.
  • transacting: buying items or services from a website or buying and installing apps on a device.
  • problem solving: verifying sources of information online or solving a problem with a device or digital service using online help.
  • creating: completing online application forms including personal details or creating something new from existing online images, music or video.

The ONS article stated that “it is important to recognise that digital skills are as important as internet usage. Users of the internet can still be digitally excluded because they lack the skills to be able to confidently and safely navigate the digital world.”


The number of adults who have either never used the internet or have not used it in the last three months, described as “internet non-users”, has been declining over recent years. Since 2011, this number has almost halved, but in 2018 there were still 5.3m adults in the UK, or 10% of the adult UK population, in this situation.


Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Skills Minister, Mohammad Asghar AM – who held a short debate in the Assembly on closing Wales’ skills gap in the digital age earlier this year – said:


“These figures are alarming because Wales cannot hope to position itself as a technological hub or modern business destination if it is behind every other area in the UK.


“Wales needs to kick start its economy by addressing the barriers to growth – one of which is a serious skills gap, exemplified by these digital literacy statistics – with a focus on further education and apprenticeships to move young people from a basic to advanced skillset.


“We must face the challenges and grab the opportunities presented by the modern global economy. The Welsh Government can’t hide from the fact that the world is only going to become more reliant on digitally skilled workers and they are in charge of creating them.”