Understanding Digital Poverty and Inequality in the UK

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Key takeaways:

We recognise that a variety of contested terms exist in this space, such as digital exclusion and inclusion, digital inequality, digital poverty, and the digital divide. We see the lessons in this report as relevant to understanding how to support those people who are most marginalised and at need in the UK (especially in relation to digital engagement), irrespective of the terms and definitions one may choose to adopt. This report highlights the central themes and findings that emerge across the evidence base of outputs produced by the commissioned projects and uses these findings to identify six policy lessons to shape policy thinking on how to effectively address digital poverty and its impacts across the UK. Policy lesson 1: Addressing digital poverty involves more than improving access - interventions must empower people and places to benefit from digital access. Policy lesson 2: Local resources and intermediaries can be valuable assets in tackling place-based digital poverty, and the public sector has a crucial role to play in enabling them. Policy lesson 3: Strategies to tackle digital poverty are important components of broader policies of tackling inequality. Policy lesson 4: Policies should consider how and why intersecting inequalities are likely to exacerbate digital poverty, and design interventions that can benefit those most at risk of digital poverty. Policy lesson 5: People can move in and out of digital poverty over time. Policy lesson 6: Consider policy interventions that can adapt to demographic and economic changes, through consistent and long-term investment.

Methodology and Methods:

In 2022, the British Academy commissioned six projects that examined different aspects of digital poverty in the UK, to draw upon the vital insights from the SHAPE disciplines (social sciences, humanities, and the arts for people and the economy) to inform policy thinking around the crucial challenge of addressing inequality – and specifically, the relationship between digital technology and inequality – across the UK.
Literature Review and/or Policy Proposal

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