Digital Exclusion and Essential Services: The Experiences of Older Adults Who Identify as Asian or Asian-British

Bailey, Sara; FitzGerald, Elizabeth and Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes (2023). Digital Exclusion and Essential Services: The Experiences of Older Adults Who Identify as Asian or Asian-British. In: DIPRC 2023: Digital Inclusion Policy and Research Conference 2023, 20-21 Sep 2023, The University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.


Essential services in the UK are digitalising at a rapid rate. However, relatively little research has been undertaken into the impact of digitalisation on racialised minorities. Further, some government bodies appear to be underestimating the likely impacts of digitalisation on minoritised groups. For example, a recent NHS Race & Health Observatory report asserts that ‘digital exclusion is less of an issue within minority ethnic communities’ than within the White population as internet usage is similar for all ethnic groups. However, the ONS data used to support this claim were not disaggregated by age or specific ethnic group. The disaggregated data demonstrate that internet usage among older (55+) individuals who identify specifically as Asian or Asian British is significantly lower than for White individuals from the same age groups. In this context, the UKRI-funded ‘Protecting Minority Ethnic Communities Online’ (PRIME) research project (2022-25) is exploring the experiences of minoritised individuals when accessing digital services and developing tools to mitigate online harms. To date, interviews have been conducted with 100 individuals who identify as ethnic minorities including approximately 30 over-55s who identify as Asian or Asian British. The majority of the subsample of 30 stated that they struggle to use digital health, social housing and/or energy platforms due to inadequate access to technology and connectivity (the first level of the digital divide) and/or limited digital skills (the second level of the digital divide). Taken together with ONS data on internet usage among over-55s who identify as Asian or Asian British, our findings demonstrate that the digitalisation of essential services is in fact likely to disproportionately exclude at least some demographic groups from some minoritised communities in the UK.

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