The Impact of Digital Inclusion Initiatives in a Civic Context

The Impact of Digital Inclusion Initiatives in a Civic Context

John Clayton, Stephen J. Macdonald, Peter Smith, Angela Wilcock
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch676
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The benefits of technology are not without limits (Clayton & Macdonald, 2013), but for those who have access to high quality ICT, there are advantages. As more everyday services go on-line, there is a danger that those who are not accessing such channels become further excluded. The gap which exists between those who have access to ICT and those who do not is known as the digital divide (National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 1995). While the number of UK based non-users of ICT is declining (Ofcom, 2008), recent figures indicate that 40% of adults in the UK are still not accessing and using the Internet (UK Online Centres, 2007), and that digital exclusion is highly correlated with social exclusion.

The socio-economic profiles of non-users of ICT indicate that social class positions heavily influence access to the ‘opportunity structure’ of ICT (Selwyn, 2003). Those who suffer deep social disadvantage are up to seven times more likely to be disengaged from the Internet than those who are more socially advantaged (Helsper, 2008). There is a fundamental inequality in the current levels of access to ICT (Graham, 2002), which favours more advantaged social groups and more affluent and connected localities (Russell and Stafford, 2002). A pressing need has been identified to provide meaningful access to digital resources for excluded social groups and geographic communities. Although technology providers will be involved in any digital inclusion solution, it is recognised that market forces alone cannot address this situation (UK Online Centres, 2007). Indeed, it is argued that market forces actually perpetuate the division by focussing their efforts upon more lucrative markets rather than fulfilling any moral obligation (Graham, 2002; Prime Ministers’ Strategy Unit, 2005). While public intervention is not without its critics, who argue that differences in ownership will erode over time (Thierer, 2000; Compaine, 2001; Fink and Kenny, 2003), it is unlikely that those who are currently unable to adequately access ICT (or the skills necessary to use it to its potential) will become engaged without some form of state led intervention.

Digital inclusion is increasingly identified as a priority area in the UK, to assist access to opportunities (Prime Ministers’ Strategy Unit, 2005). Although some key issues remain problematic, especially connectivity and take up of e-Government services (Ottens, 2005), the UK is recognised as leading in digital inclusion (Lupescu, 2009; Carter, 2009).

There has been much research on the topic of technology acceptance and diffusion (Rogers, 2003) with theoretical models such as the Technology Acceptance Model (Davis, 1989) now well accepted, and the last few years have seen a significant bolstering of the national digital inclusion agenda; however, there remains a lack of empirical research in a UK context (Phipps, 2000; Gaved & Anderson, 2006). This article examines the extent to which one UK city: Sunderland, has become digitally enabled and the impact of these activities. The article presents a city-wide study of the impact of local digital inclusion initiatives.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Inclusion Initiatives: Formal projects provided for residents of the city.

Quality of Life: Personal satisfaction with the conditions under which we live.

Mixed Methods: Combines the analysis of quantitative and qualitative data.

Digital Divide: The gap between those who have access to ICT and those who do not.

Technology Acceptance Model: Predicts user accept and use of information technology.

Digital Exclusion: A lack of access to, and use of, ICT resources.

ICT: Information and Communications Technology.

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