Digital generation gap emerging as older generations are failing to embrace technology

Fewer than half of adults in the UK are classed as ‘digitally savvy’ according to new research by Nominet.

The Digital Futures Index 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.

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