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Carnegie UK Trust report cover

The report presents new research, based on over 5,000 interviews with people in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, examining how we use our digital skills to manage our privacy, security and information online.

How ‘digitally savvy’ are we? - New report now available

By Douglas White, Head of Advocacy for the Carnegie UK Trust

05.10.2017

How ‘digitally savvy’ are we? - New report now available

By Douglas White, Head of Advocacy for the Carnegie UK Trust

05.10.2017

In this guest blog, Douglas White, from the Carnegie UK Trust, presents and explores the findings of a new report 'Digitally Savvy Citizens' - looking into how we use our digital skills to manage our privacy, security and information online.

Douglas WhiteLast week at the Carnegie UK Trust we were delighted to launch our new report 'Digitally Savvy Citizens'.

The report presents new research, based on over 5,000 interviews with people in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, examining how we use our digital skills to manage our privacy, security and information online.

We used a series of ‘proxy’ questions to understand people’s behavior. We tried to ensure that the questions aligned with the Get Digital Basic Digital Skills Framework – particularly the safety aspect of the framework. We asked people:

  • Where they seek information about breaking news, the opening hours of local services, a historical event, or ‘how to…’?
  • Whether they use passwords or passcodes on their phone?
  • How safe they feel using public wifi to perform tasks such as online banking?
  • If they share photos online or use public social media profiles?

The data was broken down by age, gender, level of affluence and jurisdiction.

Many of the results were surprising. For example, there is often an assumption that young people have a high degree of digital skills but may be lax in their online privacy. In contrast, older people are sometimes seen as being more cautious or security conscious online, while lacking the ‘innate’ digital skills of younger generations.

The research findings suggest that the reality is a lot more complicated that these simple stereotypes. Younger people are indeed more likely to be more ‘open’ in their online engagements – for example they are far more likely to share photos online, to have public social media profiles, or to feel comfortable using public wifi networks for tasks such as online banking or emailing.

However, there are some areas where the security practices of older people appear less cautious than those in the younger age groups. For example, more than half of those aged over 55 use a password or a passcode to protect their mobile phone. Older people are also less likely to ever turn off phone location services – with only a third of over 55s ever doing so.

Younger people were also more likely than older people to verify information they find online against multiple sources.

The research also found some different behavior patterns between men and women. Men are more likely to verify online information against another source, to use a passcode to protect their phone and to use a different name online. Meanwhile, women are more likely to share photos online and to be more cautious in their use of public wifi networks.

In terms of variations by different UK nations, people in Wales are most likely to share photos online, people in England use the widest range of sources to find information, people in Scotland are most security-conscious in relation to their mobile phones, while people in Northern Ireland are most cautious in their use of public wifi.

All of this highlights the wide range of different experiences and skills that people have in managing their digital security, privacy and information – and points to a need for more tailored support and advice to help people develop their skill and knowledge.

Managing our privacy, security and information are big concepts that society has considered and refined its position on to a high degree of sophistication over many years. But we are still grappling with how best to navigate these questions in a digital setting. What sources of information can we trust online? What data do we share and with whom when we visit different websites or use our smartphone? How do we best protect our information and security while maximizing the benefits that digital services can offer?

Digital offers us so many new opportunities and benefits. The challenge for us all is to ensure we have the skills, confidence, expertise and knowledge to maximize these advantages while mitigating the risks.

Click here to access the full report