Developing digital inclusion networks and tackling digital inequalities: Policy Brief

Front cover of Developing digital inclusion networks and tackling digital inequalities: Policy Brief
The British Academy
Number of pages


In April 2023, the British Academy funded three case study-based research projects as part of our Digital Technology and Inequality project. These projects aimed to draw upon the SHAPE disciplines to highlight clear and practical lessons for policymakers at local, regional and national levels for tackling digital inequalities, developing digital inclusion programmes, and supporting digital inclusion networks. The funded projects were:

  • Co-producing a Theory of Change and Evaluation Framework for Local Authority-led, City-wide Digital Inclusion Programmes’ - Led by Dr Kris Southby and Dr Joanne Trigwell, Leeds Beckett University
  • ‘Digital Inclusion Network Development: A Case Study in Derbyshire’ - Led by Dr Sharon Wagg, University of Sheffield
  • ‘Exploring Challenges and Best Practice in Addressing Digital Inequalities: A UK Regional Case Study Approach’ - Led by Professor Simeon Yates, University of Liverpool.

This Policy Brief highlights some of the findings and new knowledge from these research projects and builds on their recommendations, and our existing evidence base, to offer five lessons for policymakers to inform local, regional, and national approaches to promoting digital inclusion:

Lessons for policymakers at the national level

Lesson 1: Digital inclusion provision at local and regional levels may be undermined by the lack of a nationally coordinated strategy;

Lesson 2: Digital inclusion is a cross-cutting policy issue that can impact social and economic policy agendas;

Lessons for policymakers at regional and local levels

Lesson 3: Approaches to digital inclusion can benefit from recognising it as an intermediate policy outcome rather than an end in itself;

Lesson 4: Longer-term and less prescriptive funding arrangements can enable delivery partners to provide tailored support that meets people’s long-term digital inclusion needs;

Lesson 5: Digital inclusion programmes benefit from taking place-based approaches that are tailored to local contexts and co-produced by actors at different scales.

These lessons (as well as the diagrams included in the brief) have been synthesised as part of the British Academy’s Digital Society Policy programme and draw on insights from across the three research projects, and have been refined following a British Academy workshop in November 2023 that brought together policymakers and civil society organisations involved in digital inclusion at different scales.

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