• One in three sacrificing digital access amid cost-of-living pressures
  • Fears that digital poverty will exacerbate mental and physical health issues
  • Digital Poverty Alliance and Currys generate over £70,000 during festive period with nationwide fundraising campaign

There are mounting fears that the cost-of-living crisis is worsening digital poverty in the UK.

New research conducted by Currys, The Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA) and YouGov has revealed that one in three (36%) UK adults have cut back their spending on key digital access.

The study revealed that a quarter (27%) have switched to a cheaper, less comprehensive broadband or mobile phone plan, whilst one in five (19%) have downgraded their phone or laptop devices (buying cheaper models, delaying upgrades, or starting to share devices between friends or family members) in order to save money.

This is despite the research finding that 89% of UK adults believe that personally having access to the internet is important. 83% consider using digital devices important to accessing essential services such as GP appointments or local government services, 81% use them to communicate with friends and family via text or instant messaging, 72% to keep up to date with news and events.

With these cutbacks in mind, many are worried that they will be left feeling the effects of digital poverty. Amongst those who have reduced their spending on tech, more than half (52%) fear that they could miss out on essential services such as accessing doctor appointments or social housing opportunities, 44% worry about being left socially isolated and over a third (38%) are concerned they’ll struggle to find work. Almost half (46%) of these Brits are worried about subsequent deteriorations to either their physical, or mental health.

The DPA is an initiative of the charity the Learning Foundation, Currys plc, and the Institute of Engineering and Technology. The organisation was established with the ambition to end to digital poverty in the UK by 2030. Over the festive period, Currys implemented a range of fundraising initiatives across its stores nationwide, which generated over £70,000 in donations to tackle digital poverty.

These included an interactive fundraising campaign (pictured below) that educated the public about the scale of the digital poverty issue, with a call to action to donate to the DPA to ‘light up futures’. This was in addition to other fundraising channels which saw the retailer and its customers contribute to the DPA via sales of colleague-designed Christmas gift cards, matched donations made in-store made via Pennies and a fundraising festive drill rap video, ‘Merry Techmas’.

Through Currys' partnership with Pennies, since May customer donations made at check-out in UK stores have funded the brand’s Tech4Families scheme with the Digital Poverty Alliance. To date, Currys has raised more than £180,000 for the DPA who have sent 300 laptops to families in need. Currys’ aim is to fund £300,000 of technology products and connectivity services by the end of the current financial year.

Elizabeth Anderson, COO for the Digital Poverty Alliance remarked:

“These findings hammer home just how devastating a lack of digital access can be for households around the UK – reinforcing concerns that those without digital access can struggle to maintain professional, social or even health-based commitments.

“At the Digital Poverty Alliance, we are working hard with our founding partners to help combat this trend. Thanks to vital fundraising efforts like the ones Currys has made over the festive period, in the last twelve months, we have rolled out two impactful campaigns across the UK, distributing 1,650 laptops to staff and teachers in schools that need them via Tech4Teachers and releasing 200 brand-new Lenovo laptops to low-income families with our Tech4Families initiative. Nevertheless, it’s clear the hard work needs to continue.”

Paula Coughlan, Chief People, Communications & Sustainability Officer for Currys plc, added:

“The findings are clear: digital poverty, and the damage it inflicts on UK households, is worsening.

“Whilst it’s important we continue to spotlight this issue via new research, it’s also critical that we provide the financial backing to help support those in digital need in the short-term. That’s why this winter, we implemented a number of fundraising initiatives to generate vital funds that will support those without access to technology.

“The proceeds raised by generous customers, colleagues and donation matches by Currys will all go to the Digital Poverty Alliance, which in turn will distribute tech items – such as laptops – to families who do not currently have them. Our purpose, to help everyone enjoy amazing technology, has never been more important for those who cannot access essential tech, and we are committed to doing everything we can to help.”

For more details about how you can donate to the Digital Poverty Alliance, please see here: https://digitalpovertyalliance.org/tech4families/