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Digital Poverty Transformation: Accessing Digital Services in Rural Northwest Communities

Research output: Book/Report/ProceedingsCommissioned report

Publication date1/04/2022
Number of pages131
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This Digital Poverty Transformation in Northwest England report, set out the purpose of our project, presents a state-of-the-art literature review on digital poverty, and the findings of a telephone survey, in-depth interviews and a policy workshop.

The literature review is based on search terms strongly associated with digital poverty in a particular place, including digital divide, digital inclusion, digital exclusion and hollowing out. The literature review concludes by presenting a practice-based framework that we use to further explore how five key factors work to shape peoples' everyday practices – digital infrastructure, sociodemographic, skills, place and purpose - and uses this to identify where, within those everyday practices, interventions are likely to impact digital poverty transformations. The digital practice-based framework focuses our data collection efforts on understanding the meaning, materials, competences and resources (or lack thereof) that perform digital poverty in everyday rural life in the Northwest of England.

We used insights from the state-of-the-art literature review to inform the development of a regional digital survey tool. Our key findings include:
• Fixed broadband is broadly affordable, with 74% of respondents agreeing that it is
o When asked if it is too expensive to use the internet, a larger proportion of older respondents agree, 18% of those 65+ compared to 9% overall
• People unable to use the internet at home can also struggle to find access within their communities. Of the respondents who do not have fixed home internet connection or have not used the internet in the last three months, 16% agree that there is nowhere they can easily get to use the internet
• Digital poverty is limiting routes to communication for residents in rural areas. At a time when video calling has become normalised in healthcare settings, and has offered a vital route for maintaining contact with friends and relatives,
o 23% of rural NW residents report not feeling confident holding video calls, rising to 40% of respondents aged over 65 and 51% among long term sick/disabled or carer respondents (though this last finding is indicative due to a relatively low sample size).
• Digital poverty is preventing individuals from looking for jobs. 26% of respondents did not feel confident searching or applying for jobs online. In particular, this affected:
o 52% among respondents who are long-term sick/disabled or a carer;
o 42% among respondents with a household income of less than 20K.
• Digital poverty risks putting some respondents off from using digital services.
o Of the 16% of respondents who have trouble using the internet, 41% do not agree that using the internet provides everyday advantages.
• Older people rely more on friends and family for help with the internet
o While 22% of respondents agree that they rely on friends and family for help with the internet, this rises to 43% among respondents 65+; 45% for unemployed respondents; 40% for those who are long-term disabled or a carer.
• Using the internet gives people advantages in every-day life
o 87% agree; this drops to 77% among those 65+; 55% among respondents without a formal education and 71% among respondents lacking basic digital skills.
We developed an in-depth qualitative data collection tool, designed to drill down into the everyday digital poverty experiences of those identified by the survey.