Developing a minimum digital living standard for households with children

This research brings together a team from Loughborough, Liverpool and London City Universities working with Good Things Foundation. The project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation and will run from September 2021 to August 2023.

Digital inequalities in access, skills, and capabilities impact all aspects of citizens’ lives, be that work, education, leisure, health, or wellbeing. The team will undertake a ‘proof of concept’ study capitalising on the well-established Minimum Income Standard (MIS) methodology, pioneered by CRSP, to develop a Minimum Digital Living Standard (MDLS) for households with children. This will capture the minimum basket of digital goods, skills and services households need in order to have an adequate quality of life and participate in society. The research will develop a framework that encapsulates digital needs and explores the implications of not having these. The project seeks to move digital inclusion policy and research debates beyond simple measures of access and skills.

Drawing on previous literature reviews and evidence from ongoing MIS research, development of the MDLS will adapt the consensus-based methodology used to devise MIS. CRSP will lead this element of the project, with four rounds of deliberative focus groups, undertaken in stages:

  1. consideration of what it means to be digitally included, and construction of case studies;
  2. identification of the digital goods, skills and services needed in case study households;
  3. ‘checkback’ to identify missing/unnecessary items;
  4. final review of the list and reflection.

Focus groups will comprise 8-10 purposively sampled participants who are demographically similar but socio-economically different and will take place in urban areas across the UK.

A UK-wide survey will then operationalise MDLS to assess links with social, economic, cultural and digital factors. Face-to-face interviews will be carried out with a quota sample of 1500, selected to be representative of the UK population of families with children. The survey data, along with other relevant secondary data, would be integrated into a geodemographic. This geographic model of how these issues combine will be used to produce estimated rates of the MDLS for local areas (Lower Super Output Area/Data Zone level). These would be complemented by other measures, such as data on broadband provision and access to local training. This data will be presented as a PDF ‘Mapbook’, hosted on a frequently used national portal.

To understand variation in needs, the specific challenges in meeting, and the consequences of not meeting, the MDLS, for certain groups, the team will consult with representatives of families who are disadvantaged as a result of various non-exclusive factors like disability, ethnicity and poverty.

A final work strand, led by Good Things Foundation, will organise a programme of engagement events, presentations, and policy briefings. These will help to test the usefulness of MDLS as a tool for engaging, informing, and influencing policy and practice. The team will monitor engagement to assess the usefulness of MDLS.