People, Power and Technology: The 2018 Digital Understanding Report
Miller C., Coldicutt R. & Kitcher H.
2018
23/05/2018
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The internet is a part of everyday life for most people in the UK - people spend more time online than they do asleep. Everything from televisions to kettles can connect to the internet.

Over 90% of the population have at least some basic digital skills, allowing access to the economic, social and civic opportunities the internet presents - from finding recipes to filing tax returns, keeping in touch with family and keeping track of finances.

But there’s a big difference between having skills - knowing how to use the internet - and having understanding - knowing the implications of using the internet.

Digital understanding is not about being able to code, it’s about being able to cope. It is about adapting to, questioning and shaping the way technologies are changing the world.

People Power and Technology : the 2018 Digital Understanding Report from Doteveryone sets out a definition of digital understanding, explores in depth the UK public’s understanding of technologies and exposes where the gaps lie.

The report shows where there are currently low levels of public understanding around digital technologies. But it does not lay the blame for this at the door of the public. Digital understanding is dependent on digital technologies being understandable. At present they are not.

People, Power and Technology is a challenge to those who create the products and services that people rely on to make understandability the building block of everyone’s digital experience. And it is a challenge to government to create and enforce standards of transparency and accountability for digital products and services. These actions must be supported with the public education needed to help close the understanding gap.

The first part of this report introduces Doteveryone’s Digital Understanding model which defines what it is that people need to comprehend so they can usefully harness technologies in different aspects of their lives.

The second part of the report identifies specific understanding gaps and reveals blindspots around:

  • How adverts target you - 45% are unaware information they enter on websites and social media can help target ads
  • How your personal information is collected - 83% are unaware information can be collected about them that other people have shared
  • How prices can vary - 47% of people haven’t seen prices change when they repeatedly search for an item or noticed friends or family seeing a different price for the same service
  • Where your news comes from - 62% don’t realise their social networks can affect the news they see
  • How products and services make money - 24% don’t know how tech companies make money

This research is based on a nationally representative survey of 2,000 people online and 500 by phone, backed by in-depth conversations in focus groups, which are quoted in this report. Findings from the research about public attitudes towards technologies have been published in People, Power and Technology: The 2018 Digital Attitudes Report