Who are the limited users of digital systems and media? An examination of U.K. evidence


  • Simeon J. Yates
  • Elinor Carmi
  • Eleanor Lockley
  • Alicja Pawluczuk
  • Tom French Good Things Foundation
  • Stephanie Vincent Good Things Foundation




This paper presents findings on the correspondence of levels of digital systems and media use with a range of socio-economic and demographic measures in the U.K. Most research on inequalities in regard to digital systems and media has focused on access and skills. Building on prior work (Yates and Lockley, 2018; Yates, et al., 2015) we argue that inequalities in regard to digital systems and media are better understood around types of user and their correspondence to other key social variables — rather than solely individual skills and access. The analysis presented here covers a range of key demographic variables, especially those that are markers of distinct social disadvantage. We find that those not using the Internet have distinct characteristics — predominantly around age, education and deprivation levels. We also find that those undertaking limited uses (overall limited use or a very narrow range of uses) are all predominantly from lower socio-economic status backgrounds with variations due to age and education. The data used for the analysis is the recent U.K. Ofcom 2018–19 (n = 1,882) media literacy survey. The paper uses latent class analysis methods to inductively define user types. Multinomial and binary logistic regression are used to explore the correspondence of latent class group membership to key demographic variables. These insights have direct U.K. and international policy relevance as they are key to the development of strategies to tackle ongoing digital inequalities in U.K. society.

Author Biographies

Elinor Carmi

Postdoc Research Associate in Digital Culture & Society at the University of Liverpool

Eleanor Lockley

Research Fellow and Associate Lecturer in the Communication and Computing Research Centre (CCRC) at Sheffield Hallam University

Alicja Pawluczuk

Young ICTD Fellow at the United Nations University Institute in Macau




How to Cite

Yates, S. J., Carmi, E., Lockley, E., Pawluczuk, A., French, T., & Vincent, S. (2020). Who are the limited users of digital systems and media? An examination of U.K. evidence. First Monday, 25(7). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i7.10847