ONE in seven people in the North-East 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 (CDI) has revealed.

Technology is now a necessity for keeping connected, working remotely and accessing vital information.

Research carried out before the introduction of lockdown restrictions showed one in six (17 per cent) of those surveyed in the North-East lacked the digital skills needed for everyday life, with more than one in ten (12 per cent) unable to connect a device to a Wi-Fi network, and a similar proportion (11 per cent) unable to turn on a device and log into accounts or profiles they have.

However, in a separate poll carried out after the lockdown restrictions were introduced, more than a third (34 per cent) of people said they have now taken action to boost their digital skills for work, health and well-being during the crisis.

Elyn Corfield, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for the North-East, said: “It’s encouraging to see people helping their families to get online, which is especially important during lockdown when it can be difficult for some people to do basic tasks in person, like shopping safely.

“As people adjust to spending more time at home, we know that using technology to keep in touch with friends can help with health and wellbeing. However, with many still struggling with even basic digital skills they are unable to get the benefits offered by virtual social interaction.

“To help close the skills gap, we’re encouraging people to use the free resources from our Lloyds Bank Academy and to speak to our local digital champions. The tools can be accessed by anyone and used to build online capabilities.”

Even before lockdown, people in the North-East with high levels of digital engagement recognised the benefits of these skills, with eight in ten (80 per cent) saying it helps them stay connected to friends and family, two fifths (43 per cent) say it improved their ability to get a job, and just under a third (29 per cent) reporting it helps manage and improve their physical and mental health.

Up-skilling in lockdown In the last few weeks of UK lockdown, three quarters (79 per cent) of people surveyed in the North-East believe that the situation has escalated the need to be online and eight out of 10 people (81 per cent) have felt that technology has been a vital support during the outbreak.

One in three (34 per cent) across the North-East have taken action and boosted their digital skills, with more than a quarter (28 per cent) reporting they have up-skilled for work reasons, while more than a third (35 per cent) are using technology more than usual to help with health and wellbeing.

Of those in the North-East who have improved their skills, almost half (49 per cent) are self-taught, more than a quarter (29 per cent) are calling upon family members for support and one in five (21 per cent) are relying on friends.

Almost one in three (29 per cent) in the North-East have also helped other people improve their digital skills during this period. Staying in touch with others is the most popular reason to ask for help, with more than half (56 per cent) of people helping their family members to use apps such as Zoom or WhatsApp. This is followed by banking and shopping cited by nearly half (43 per cent) of respondents.

Encouragingly, more than half (53 per cent) of people in the North-East want to continue to boost their skills beyond the current climate, with almost on in five (17 per cent) having used the time at home to do online learning to improve digital skills.

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.”

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.

To help people up-skill Lloyds Bank is running online digital skills training via the Lloyds Bank Academy. Free webinars are held each week providing access to digital experts, training on key skills and opportunities for virtual networking to support individuals, local businesses and charities. Everyone can access free online resources at

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 of the Group’s Digital Champions are also using online volunteering platforms and telephone services to help the most vulnerable in society during this difficult time.