Local communities and the internet ecosystem: Scaling solutions to data poverty in the UK

Date published:



Good Things Foundation

Key takeaways:

1. Data poverty in the UK excludes people from access to essential services and participating in UK society. A key output of this research was The Periodic Table of Internet Elements, a graphic which lays out different elements of how the internet is used by UK citizens. This graphic captures what has long felt intuitive; that internet access is essential, a human right and spans essential needs, identity, self-expression and connection. 2. Data poverty disproportionately affects people who already face social inequality and deepens their disadvantage. UK citizens who have experience of being in care, claim benefits, are refugees, have a disability or long-term illness, are fleeing domestic violence, or face other forms of social disadvantage are more likely to face data poverty. 3. Affordability and accessibility is a central challenge. The cost of living crisis and the impending recession is forcing families to choose between rent, bills, food and internet. Affordability is key, but it is closely accompanied by accessibility. 4. Strong solutions to data poverty exist in the UK and some are ripe for scaling. This research details nine solutions to data poverty, offering their pros and cons and how they might be scaled. It offers a framework for comparing solutions, specifically focused on the needs of individuals disproportionately affected by data poverty. 5. Community-led solutions can only be understood and scaled within the context of a wider ecosystem. The ecosystem of internet access is complex: telecommunications companies, government at all levels (local, regional and national and central Government), regulation, global investment, local communities, philanthropy and the individual intersect to create access to what has become a human right.

Methodology and Methods:

The findings in this report are drawn from interviews with more than 85 individuals, spanning frontline workers, people with lived experience of data poverty, telecommunications workers, policy experts, politicians, trade industry representatives, academics, IT experts and digital inclusion experts. Alongside desktop research, this forms a snapshot of data poverty as it appeared in the Summer of 2022. Throughout the report, you will find case studies from different parts of the UK and quotes. These illustrate both the reality of living with data poverty and how communities and organisations are building solutions. I recommend browsing the quotes and case studies of this report; they breathe life into a complex subject.
Interviews, Case Studies

Case study: