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What are rich people really doing on the internet?

In this week's blog post on health and success, we're looking at digital literacy. If the words “Digital Literacy” sound boring to you, you’re not alone, but this issue is more interesting than you think. Think about it, if you’re like me a day without a computer or a phone is rare.

I know, the name sounds so boring, but if you've never heard of digital literacy, you'd like to know how damaging a lack of digital literacy is right now, and you'd like some ideas on what can be done, read on.

What is digital literacy?

Despite sounding like a technical issue, digital literacy is a human one. If you’re reading this right now, it means that you, like me and about half the world (UNICEF) are digitally literate.

Digital literacy is “having the skills you need to live, learn, and work in a society where communication and access to information are increasingly through digital technologies like internet platforms, social media, and mobile devices.”

The internet has changed my life. Without the internet, I wouldn’t have learned Calculus when I was 18, but it’s given me so much since then- that I still like it.

Why I love the internet

Jokes aside, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, because if anything I’m the opposite. I use technology every day, most of the time, without even thinking of it. Although phones and computers bring me anxiety, they also bring connection, opportunity and knowledge.

Without the internet, I wouldn’t have booked the yoga class where I met my boss Denise. I wouldn’t have this blog. I wouldn’t have become a Director of Voice ESEA. I wouldn’t know about little things like circadian rhythms and optimal caffeine intake or found Bad Bunny or met my first boyfriend or even be in the room I’m living in right now.

The reason I know about digital literacy is a few months ago I had the pleasure of speaking to Bob Gann online (of course) on a Zoom call. Bob is an experienced former digital health consultant for organisations like the NHS, and he touched on digital literacy driving home the need to address this digital inequality as soon as possible.

Why digital literacy matters

Bob wrote an article as well explaining that “we need to better understand who engages with digital technologies, the enablers and barriers... The lack of consideration of these factors poses the danger that the pursuit of digital health solutions results in unintended consequences and reinforces existing social and health inequalities.”

There is so much the internet has given me, and I am so grateful for my connections, and I bet if you think about what in your life has come from the virtual world, you will be too (unless you were like catfished or something), but there are some people who don’t know how to use this technology we’ve been empowered with and they are severely left behind for it.

This is especially true in contemporary societies, and yet, a lot of people in the UK (2.4 million) can’t do digital basics.

Who digital literacy affects

“Digital illiteracy is a phenomenon that affects the most vulnerable.” Break Poverty

Digital literacy disproportionately affects low-income house holds (16% of low-income households vs. 4% of the wealthiest households), which means wealthier people are more likely to use the internet for whatever they need it for.

People who struggle with tech in the UK tend to be older, have disabilities and live alone according to a Lloyds Banking Group report. This is concerning considering one-third of the offline struggle to interact with healthcare services, and this group of people are more at risk for health issues, but the UNICEF report highlights current global struggles for Digital Literacy for children too.

How digital illiteracy creates problems over time

Lack of digital literacy also widens poverty gaps.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) has identified five areas in which individuals who acquire basic digital skills are able to benefit, three of which are directly related to bank accounts:

  • earnings benefits: these relate to increased earnings of between 3% and 10% through acquiring digital skills.

  • employability benefits: this reflects the improved chances of finding work for someone who is unemployed and an increased likelihood that someone who is inactive will look for work.

  • retail transaction benefits: shopping online has been found to be 13% cheaper on average than shopping in-store.

This money compounded over time widens poverty gaps, and that’s not the only issue. Being without a computer could lead to going without food, treatment for critical health conditions, and a stable job. It could lead to loneliness because of less time communicating with family and friends and more time and effort spent on errands that could quickly be done online.

What can you do about digital literacy?

Digital literacy is a contributing factor to the widening poverty gap, but almost anyone without digital literacy will struggle in our society. If you have skills connections and ideas to help this issue, you probably don’t need this part of my blog post, but also you probably didn’t click on it in the first place because you already know more about digital literacy than I do.

So if you’re like me and are digitally literate, but aren’t in a place to help directly, the best way you can help is to talk about digital literacy. Even if the name digital literacy sounds boring and make it human.

Another idea I had since a lot of people reading my blog do marketing, PR or have other interests where digital illiteracy could be highlighted is to suggest you find stories of real people facing these issues, talk to them if they’re willing, and make digital literacy a better known issue so people with resources can help. Highlight niches like immigrant digital literacy, ESEA digital literacy, LGBTQ+ digital literacy and more.

Enjoyed this post?

Thanks for reading. Hope you learned something new you can use to get you closer to happiness. Next week we’ll be exploring class differences in medical access.

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