An investigation of digital inclusion in UK rural communities
thesisposted on 24.11.2021, 13:20 by Sharon WaggSharon Wagg
This study challenges the current ‘utopian’ discourse in digital inclusion rhetoric by providing insights into the complexity of digital inclusion initiative provision as a multilevel phenomenon, against a backdrop of digitalisation and digital-by-default policy.
The aim of this study is to investigate digital inclusion initiative provision in the context of UK rural communities. Underpinned by the philosophy of critical realism, the study employs an exploratory qualitative case study that provides a critical discussion of digital inclusion initiative provision and a granular analysis of the dynamics, processes, experiences, and behaviours of those involved in the phenomenon. More specifically the study explores digital inclusion initiative provision from a multilevel perspective, from digital inclusion stakeholders that operate nationally across the UK; intermediaries delivering digital inclusion training and support in three specific rural regions of the UK with populations at increased risk of digital exclusion; and individuals who have received digital inclusion support within those three specific rural locations.
Data collection involved semi-structured interviews, focus groups, observations, complemented by a brief document review. Activity Theory was utilised as an analytical framework to provide guidance from data collection through to empirical data analysis to help investigate digital inclusion initiative provision as a multilevel phenomenon.
Key findings reveal digital inclusion initiative provision is a complicated process that is fraught with challenges and contradictions, that hamper the realisation of the digital inclusion agenda. Digital inclusion training and support is provided to individuals from ‘all walks of life’, not just the digitally excluded, and not everyone has beneficial outcomes. Importantly, the study reveals the bridging role of human intermediation, and the need for rural communities to be considered in UK government digital policy.
Contributions of this study include new insights into the understanding digital inclusion initiative provision and the inherent challenges in that process, the usefulness of Activity Theory to help unravel the complexity of digital inclusion initiatives as a multilevel phenomenon; and recommendations for change in the provision of digital inclusion initiatives that have implications for policy and practice.
Mark Hepworth Scholarship, Loughborough University
- Business and Economics
- Information Science