In a bid to cut costs, many social services have adopted a ‘digital by default’ provision, making digital media the primary means of accessing aspects such as social interaction, everyday purchases and government services. Yet there are over 11 million UK citizens who are non-users or limited users of digital media and services. Collaborative research by Professor Simeon Yates and various stakeholders into the impact of restricted or non-use of such services has resulted in policy development and interventions at national and local levels.
The research has explored the social, cultural and political implications of digital exclusion, and has recently expanded into questions of citizen data literacy. National surveys and quantitative analysis have identified intersections between digital inequalities and different demographic characteristics. This has led to a range of action research projects, including community-specific interventions in social housing areas in Sheffield. Further, the research has fed into policy-making and contributed to broader policy debate.
Working in partnership
A number of partner organisations were involved in co-designing the research, including all four of South Yorkshire’s city and district councils, Good Things Foundation, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and arts practitioners. Funding was received from the Research Council and Third Sector and commercial partners, including the ESRC, DCMS, Good Things Foundation, NESTA, CISCO, DSTL, and the Nuffield Foundation.
Outputs and outcomes
The research has been featured by UK and non-UK media (including ITVs’ Tonight programme in 2019) and has informed policy debate, development and implementation, both nationally and internationally. Through a secondment to the DCMS, Professor Yates has contributed to the formation of the UK’s first ever Digital Culture policy. The commitments outlined in this policy have been taken forward by DCMS, Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the British Library and the Intellectual Property Office. Subsequently, Arts Council England have received funding to develop the Digital Maturity Index; the National Lottery Heritage Fund have established a two-year £1m digital capacity building programme and appointed a new head of digital policy; and there has also been investment in infrastructure (e.g. National Gallery Innovation Lab).