Developing a minimum digital living standard for households with children

Digital inequalities in access, skills, and capabilities impact all aspects of citizens’ lives, be that work, education, leisure, health, or wellbeing. The team undertook a ‘proof of concept’ study capitalising on the well-established Minimum Income Standard (MIS) methodology to develop a Minimum Digital Living Standard (MDLS) for households with children.

MDLS final report coverRead the reports on the UK and Welsh MDLS projects here.

Visit the Minimum Digital Living Standard (MDLS) project website here.






The MDLS captures the minimum basket of digital goods, skills and services households need in order to have an adequate quality of life and participate in society. Through employing a deliberative approach, the team developed a framework that encapsulates digital needs and explores the implications of not having these. The project seeks to move digital inclusion policy and research debates beyond simple measures of individual access and skills.

Drawing on previous literature reviews and the established Minimum Income Standard methodology, MDLS adopted a consensus-based approach to defining digital needs. Four rounds of deliberative focus groups were be undertaken with households and young people:

  1. consideration of what it means to be digitally included, and construction of case studies
  2. identification of the digital goods, skills and services needed in case study households
  3. ‘checkback’ to identify missing/ unnecessary items
  4. final review of the list and reflection.

Groups comprised 8-10 purposively sampled participants who are demographically similar but socio-economically different and took place in urban areas across the UK.

Alongside this UK work the team were commissioned by the Welsh Government to develop an MDLS for Wales.  This work developed the UK MDLS through additional groups in Wales and engagement with social and civic Welsh stakeholders.

Reports on the UK and Welsh MDLS projects can be found on this page.

As part of the project, MDLS was operationalised to undertake a UK-wide survey and assess links with social, economic, cultural and digital factors. Face-to-face interviews were carried out with a quota sample of 1500, selected to be representative of the UK population of families with children. The survey data, along with other relevant secondary data, was integrated into a geodemographic. This geographic model of how these issues combine was used to produce estimated rates of the MDLS for local areas (Lower Super Output Area / Data Zone level). These were complemented by other measures, such as data on broadband provision and access to local training. This data was presented as a PDF ‘Mapbook’, hosted on a frequently used national portal.

To understand variation in needs, the specific challenges in meeting, and the consequences of not meeting, the MDLS for certain groups, the team consulted with representatives of families who are disadvantaged as a result of various non-exclusive factors like disability, ethnicity and poverty.

A final work strand, led by Good Things Foundation, organised a programme of engagement events, presentations, and policy briefings. These were designed to help test the usefulness of MDLS as a tool for engaging, informing, and influencing policy and practice. The team monitored engagement to assess the usefulness of MDLS.

The project ran from September 2021 to December 2023.

Visit the Minimum Digital Living Standard (MDLS) project website here.

Funders and partners
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Loughborough University logo          Swansea-Uni-logo

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The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. It also funds student programmes that provide opportunities for young people to develop skills in quantitative and scientific methods. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Ada Lovelace Institute and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit

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