Towards a Minimum Digital Living Standard for Wales

Darllenwch y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg  

The Digital Strategy for Wales sets out how we want people to have the motivation, access, skills and confidence to use digital in a modern world.

Digital is now a fundamental aspect of our daily lives – used for entertainment and leisure activities, in work and education, for keeping in touch with family and friends and accessing important public services. Many of us benefit from being able to use digital tools and technology confidently, however as the pace of change in digital technology increases, there is risk that more people will remain or become digitally excluded. Digital exclusion is experienced by people who do not have access, skills, confidence, or motivation to use the internet or digital tools.

The divide between those who have access to devices – laptops, smart phones, tablets, suitable data packages, digital skills and confidence and those who do not, has been brought into sharp focus since the pandemic and, even more so now, through the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. 

In this blog we want to tell you about an important piece of research to explore a Minimum Digital Living Standard for Wales which could play an important role in improving the lives of people in Wales. This work was commissioned by the Welsh Government from the University of Liverpool, working in partnership with University of Loughborough, Cwmpas and the Good Things Foundation.

This will be the first in a series of blogs as the work on MDLS progresses throughout the coming year. 

What is a Minimum Digital Living Standard?

The Minimum Digital Living Standard is a people-centred definition of what it means to be digitally included in modern Wales. The standard considers ‘a basket of digital goods’ – this includes the type of device, broadband speed and/or mobile data and the basic digital skills which people think of as necessary to be able to engage confidently with digital technology.

Definition: “A minimum digital standard of living includes, but is more than, having accessible internet, adequate equipment and appropriate training and support. It’s about being able to communicate, connect and engage with opportunities safely and with confidence”.

What progress has been made so far?

The first phase of work was carried out over a nine-month period and ended in Winter 2022. This phase was about talking to a wide range of stakeholders from public, private and third sector organisations across Wales to gain their support for the work to develop a national benchmark for digital inclusion. Another important part of the work was a series of focus groups with members of the public to test, explore and agree on a definition for the Minimum Digital Living Standard.

The first phase of work initially focussed on the needs of households with children to understand what is required to meet a Minimum Digital Living Standard threshold. This built on work commissioned through the Nuffield Foundation, who had provided the University of Liverpool with funding to develop a UK minimum digital living standard for households with children. The timing of these two pieces of work allowed the University of Liverpool to access information from a wide number of focus groups across the UK and draw findings which benefited our Wales-specific work. The research findings and outcomes have now been published in an Executive Summary and Full Report. The report makes a series of recommendations to Welsh Government and others.

What are the next steps?

We are now in the next phase of work.

This phase will explore the definition of a Minimum Digital Living Standard with groups of people who are most at risk of digital exclusion, including older people, disabled people, ethnic minority communities and social housing residents. As with the first phase, this work will focus on in-depth discussions with members of the public and stakeholders to consider how the minimum digital living standard could be implemented, measured and what actions might be needed to support people to reach it. This will likely result in further recommendations.

If you have any comments or questions about the report on a Minimum Digital Living Standard, please let us know in the comments below.

Blog by Lisa, Digital Inclusion Team, Welsh Government

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