Digital generation gap remains wide open as older generations fail to embrace new technology

25th October 2017

Millennials are digitally capable, but Baby Boomer and Pre-war generations struggle to complete basic online tasks and risk getting left behind

25th October – Oxford, UK: Fewer than half of adults in the UK are classed as “digitally savvy” according to new research by Nominet – the company best known for the smooth running of the .UK internet.

The Digital Futures Index, launched today by Nominet, found that only 42% of adults are able to easily complete a number of digital tasks. Respondents were asked about their ability to upload a video clip, download an app, use an online map, set up a new mobile phone, build a website, and pay for things via mobile. They were also asked to identify basic icons, such as those for menu, settings and Wi-Fi.

The research found that digital savviness also decreased with age, highlighting a generational digital skills gap. It found that whilst 64% of millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are digitally savvy, only 46% of Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980) are. This then drops to 34% for Gen Z (born 1997 onwards), 23% of baby boomers (born between 1946 to 1964) and 15% of the pre-war generation (born 1945 and earlier).

As well as exploring those who are digitally capable, the study looked at digital incapability – people who are unable, can’t, or won’t engage with a range of online activities. It was found that 11% of baby boomers and 19% of the pre-war generation fall into this category.

Optimism about technology’s benefits to society is lowest in the older generations, with 56% of adults believing that technology will benefit them in the future, compared with 75% of children (aged 6-18). When you consider the average age of a UK business leader is 52, and a UK politician is 50, it becomes apparent that there needs to be an attitude shift at the top.

Children taking part in the survey were also more open to emerging technology; currently over a half are willing to use voice commands to control a robot (53%), compared to just 26% of adults. This trend continues, as 56% of children would buy a VR headset (vs 17% of adults); 31% would ride in a driverless car (vs 19% of adults) and 44% would let the fridge do the shopping (vs 12% of adults).

The research demonstrates a clear correlation between age and a willingness to accept new technology, with the younger generations embracing it more easily.

Russell Haworth, CEO, Nominet, says: “It’s clear to see that the generational skills gap is as wide as ever, and many are in danger of being left behind. While younger generations may be willing to adopt new technologies and look optimistically to the future, some older members of society remain reluctant to change.

“As we upgrade our nation with innovations including 5G, smart cities, autonomous vehicles and AI, people need to be aware of both the risks and the possibilities that technology has to offer. Most importantly, they need to equip themselves with the skills and knowledge required to thrive in a digitally charged future.”

To ensure nobody is left behind, Nominet has launched the Digital Futures Index, a project that seeks to encourage debate on what matters most, as we chart a course towards a vibrant digital future in the UK. Nominet’s position as the company behind the .UK internet infrastructure means it can offer a unique perspective on the digital progress of the UK.

Nominet will work with experts from academia, business, government and education to identify the key factors that will determine the nation’s success in building a digital future. The plan is for the Digital Futures Index to be updated annually to track progress.

At the start of next year, the Vibrant Digital Future Summit will mark Nominet’s commitment to driving the nation forward digitally. It will invite business leaders, tech innovators and government officials to discuss the UK’s status as a tech leader, and how we risk damaging a potentially prosperous future if we don’t act on our impending digital skills gap.

For more information please contact Tom Knock at Brands 2 Life on 0207 592 1200 / [email protected].

About the research

Nominet commissioned Populus to survey a representative sample of 4,188 UK adults and 1,041 children aged 6-17 online between 7-20 April 2017. See the full report here: Nominet Digital Futures Index