People who cannot read or write are named "illiterate".

Does a word exist to qualify someone in the same position but about using a computer or a web application?

This term would be really usefull to qualify an important population requiering specific attention from us to ease the access of our applications.

PS: A neologism for "computer illiterate" would be perfect. (Something based on "iwebitracy", "incomputracy", ...)

PS2: There is no jugement about this "population" (read it as the statistical term) which we all come from; "incomputracy" or illiteracy are not a disease or a deficiency. They are only a lack of practice and experience. They both result in a blocking issue for people trying to reach new strata of our universe: job, knowledge, etc. We have a word for the analogic word (illiteracy). Why is there no word for the digital world?

  • 1
    Have you thought about just using the term 'novice'? – Brendon Jan 31 '13 at 19:58
  • No, because I think it does not match entierly the definition. :) – Toto Jan 31 '13 at 20:08
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    Back in my day we just called them "noobs". – Austin Henley Jan 31 '13 at 21:52
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    . . . . . "mom" – wim Feb 1 '13 at 0:39
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    Seemed like I'm reading english.SE – user13107 Feb 1 '13 at 6:30

Novice users comes to mind, but you can also use terms like non-tech savvy, computer illiterate, or just new computer user. But this doesn't specify the level they are at.

For situations like this I would create a persona that more fully represents the demographic that you want to refer to, and then refer to that persona instead of trying to name a category.

Assuming your persona was named Mary:
"Would Mary find this easy to use?" is more useful than "Would a computer illiterate person find this easy to use?"

  • 2
    +1 This is a really good term, since illiterate would be going too far. These users can read and write, so they are not illiterate per se. Web Illiteracy: How Much Is Your Fault? – Benny Skogberg Jan 31 '13 at 20:06
  • I think it is important to have a neologism/word to qualify a "computer illiterate". It is not pejorative but a reality especially when dealing with mainstream web applications. – Toto Jan 31 '13 at 20:12
  • @Toto How do you define that level? Even in reading, illiterate doesn't mean that you can't read at all, just that your level is below a set minimum. So what would the minimum level be? – JohnGB Jan 31 '13 at 20:28
  • The real question is how we name someone who does not know how to use a computer or who does not know how to use the web at all? Speaking about were we set the level for "iwebitracy" or "incomputracy" would be a debate and against SE terms. ;) – Toto Jan 31 '13 at 20:52
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    "Novice User" is the best term. It is important to remember that users are multi-dimensional; they may not be experts on computers, but they are good at other tasks. You have to focus on the person first, then the technology. – Kevin G Jan 31 '13 at 21:28

The general term I've heard is "computer illiterate"

  • That's exactly this. But does a neologism exist for that? – Toto Jan 31 '13 at 20:08

A luddite is described by Urban Dictionary as

One who fears technology (or new technology, as they seem pleased with how things currently are...why can't everything just be the same?)

  • "The Luddites were 19th-century English textile artisans who violently protested against the machinery introduced during the Industrial Revolution that made it possible to replace them with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work. - Luddite on Wikipedia – Alexander Wallin Jan 31 '13 at 22:38
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    Yes, and it is frequently used in IT circles as a term for those who can't or won't adapt to new technology. Normally politicians. – Graham Borland Jan 31 '13 at 22:39
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    It seems to me a luddite have an intent or opinion about the technology. One who is positive towards new technology (say computers) could still be a total novice. I'm not saying it isn't frequently used, just that there could be a better word for it. – Alexander Wallin Jan 31 '13 at 22:44

Neophyte is similar to @GrahamBorland's answer in that the official definitions don't really give it justice:

  1. a beginner or novice: He's a neophyte at chess.
  2. Roman Catholic Church . a novice.
  3. a person newly converted to a belief, as a heathen, heretic, or nonbeliever; proselyte.
  4. Primitive Church. a person newly baptized.

The way it's almost always used in my experience, a neophyte is like a newbie in that they don't know something, but different in that they want to learn.

It has the bonus of sounding all hackery to someone whose only such knowledge is CSI.


In Dutch we have the word 'digibeet', in analogy with 'analfabeet', e.g. the English analphabetic.

I guess 'digibetic' would be the English version, and would perhaps be a good word for this. However, for now computer illiterate as mentioned in the other answers would be the best term.


The word is computer-illiterate.

When I want to be more precise about the degrees of computer-illiteracy, I use the phrases my mother and my grandmother. :-)

  • Unless you are addressing people who personally know your mother and grandmother, then these terms are unhelpful. Some mothers and grandmothers are expert computer users, others have little knowledge of computers. We should avoid reinforcing stereotypes. – bdsl Aug 7 '15 at 15:31

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