Lancaster University: Making digital more inclusive

As digital technology continues to transform the ways we work, communicate, and access and consume services, many groups in society are at risk of being left behind.

At a special online public event, experts from Lancaster University Management School (LUMS), the Work Foundation think tank, local government, the private and charity sectors will examine how a greater and smarter use of digital technologies can promote economic and social inclusion.

What Matters Now: Digital Inclusion takes place on Thursday, April 22, starting at 10am. It is open to organisations and members of the public with an interest in digital access. The webinar is part of the What Matters Now series, aimed at tackling big issues facing business and society today and tomorrow.

Dr Rachel Dyer, Head of Partnerships and Engagement in LUMS, said: “Digital technologies have transformed our lives substantially, and the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of digital access more than ever. Unfortunately, there are groups who often feel excluded and who can be left at a disadvantage when they are required to use these technologies.

“Our LUMS academics have worked on projects to help bring digital inclusion to these groups, from making it easier for older people to better connect with their communities, to investigating the digital needs of isolated rural residents and businesses.

“Together with experts from local government, the Good Things Foundation charity and business, we will share some emerging insights into how we can start to level the playing field across society and connect communities.”

Speakers will include Niall Hayes, Professor of Information and Organisation in LUMS, and South Lakeland District Council Deputy Leader Councillor Jonathan Brook. They worked on the Mobile Age project, involving care providers and older adults in developing an app that helps them better connect with their communities, and will discuss how public agencies use digital technologies to transform the way they plan for and support ageing populations.

Sharon Wagg, a Research Associate in LUMS, and Alice Mathers, Head of Research at digital social inclusion charity the Good Things Foundation, will look at the importance of digital inclusion in enhancing social inclusion during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sharon has expertise in digital inclusion and rurality, and is currently working on Mobile Access North Yorkshire, a two-year project which aims to help areas with little or no mobile phone connectivity. Alice’s research includes leading Powering Up study, evidencing digital inclusion as a critical driver of economic inclusion; and producing the Good Things Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Report, which charted the rise of data poverty and digital inequality as key issues.

The event will finish with a panel interview session examining the impact on businesses and employees of the shift to home/remote working, led by Work Foundation Director Ben Harrison, and featuring Rebecca Falder (HMG Paint); Claire Holt (Hosokawa); Alan Ryan (Technoprint); and Dan Smith (Twinfix).

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