Locked out before lockdown: 9 million people struggled to get online

21 May 2020

  • 11.7 million people lack the ‘essential digital skills’ needed for day-to-day life online
  • But, one in three (35%) have boosted digital skills during lockdown
  • Around half (54%) of 18-24 year-olds and 25-34 year-olds (46%) have assisted others with digital skills

Nine million1 people were unable to use the internet by themselves prior to lockdown, lacking the basic skills required to communicate, shop or bank online, the latest Lloyds Bank Consumer Digital Index has revealed.

Technology is now a necessity for keeping connected, working remotely and accessing vital information. However, research2 carried out before the introduction of lockdown restrictions showed that 22% (c.11.7m) of the UK population lack the digital skills needed for everyday life3,with 11% (c.5.9m) unable to turn on a device and 12% (c.6.7m) unable to connect a device to a wifi network by themselves. Furthermore, 25% of the population, (c.13.5 million) were unable to use video calling apps, like FaceTime and Skype.

Stephen Noakes, Managing Director, Retail Transformation, Lloyds Bank, said: “The impact of lockdown has brought into sharp focus just how important digital skills are, when all of a sudden it may be the only way for some people to stay connected to loved ones, buy food or get hold of other essential items such as medicine.

“While this unprecedented situation may have a greater impact on those who remain digitally excluded than those who are online, it is encouraging that this has focused people’s attention on digital capability as a vital life skill. We and many others have responded to this with extra support, including free training through our Academy, but more needs to be done to close the digital divide.”

Even before lockdown, people with high levels of digital engagement recognised the benefits of these skills, with 87% saying it helps them stay connected to friends and family, 61% say it improved their ability to get a job, and 44% reporting it helps manage and improve their physical and mental health.

Up-skilling in lockdown

According to a separate poll4 in the last few weeks of UK lockdown, three quarters (78%) of the population now believe that the situation has escalated the need to be online and eight out of 10 people (80%) have felt that technology has been a vital support during the outbreak.

One in three (35%) have taken action and boosted their digital skills, with almost a third (31%) reporting they have up-skilled for work reasons, while 37% are using technology more than usual to help with health and wellbeing.

Of those who have improved their skills, over half (57%) are self-taught, with a quarter (25%) calling upon family members for support and one in five (21%) relying on friends.

More than one in three (35%) have also helped other people improve their digital skills during this period, with young people leading the way. Around half (54%) of 18-24 year-olds and 25-34 year-olds (46%) have assisted others with getting online. Staying in touch with others is the most popular reason to ask for help, with almost two thirds (62%) of people helping their family members to use apps such as Zoom or Whatsapp. This is followed by banking and shopping (30%).

Encouragingly, over half (57%) want to continue to boost their skills beyond the current climate, with one in five (20%) having used the time at home to do online learning to improve digital skills.

Helping to address the digital divide

The latest Consumer Digital Index also shows that without any intervention, by 2030, a quarter of the UK will still have a very low level of digital engagement.

Since the COVID-19 crisis took hold, Lloyds Banking Group has been helping more people through the Lloyds Bank Academy. Supporting over 13,000 extra people and businesses to help improve digital skills and confidence with technology.

In addition, through a new partnership with WeAreDigital, a specialist phone line has been introduced to help up to 20,000 customers access the internet and learn new skills to help with everyday digital tasks such as online shopping and connecting virtually with family and friends, as well as online banking. Over 20,000 Digital Champions are also using online volunteering platforms and telephone services to help the most vulnerable in society during this difficult time.

For further information read the full Consumer Digital Index report here.


1.  All population figures used in this press release are extrapolated figures from a nationally representative survey conducted by Ipsos MORI of over 4,000 UK citizens 15+

2.  Conducted by Ipsos MORI, see notes to editors

3.  The skills needed for everyday life are Communicating, Transacting, Problem Solving, Handling Information and Content and Being Safe, Legal and Confident Online.

4. YouGov research – see notes to editors