Good Things Foundation and Nominet have announced plans to set up a Data Poverty Lab with the aim of bringing more digitally excluded people online.
The digital inclusion charity and the registry for UK web domain names are creating the body to look into the issues around some people not having the connectivity or being able to afford the data capacity to meet essential needs.
It will bring together telcos, internet service providers and policy makers to identify the gaps in data availability for disadvantaged people and possible solutions.
A spokesperson said that some of these have already shown a strong interest, and that the research would bring in people who have experienced data poverty.
The issue has been thrown into focus during the pandemic, with reports such as schoolchildren struggling to take part in remote learning as their households only had a mobile connection with limited data and could not afford more.
The spokesperson said possible solutions could include the availability of more websites that provide access without a data requirement, and the possibility for people to transfer their unused data to others in need.
“The lab is a way to explore ideas and encourage solutions,” he said. “We want to get people together to look at what has been done and where the gaps are.”
Decisive and coherent
Helen Milner, chief executive of Good Things Foundation, said: “Data poverty has always existed, but Covid-19 has made it visible. Now is the time for all of us to come together to address this issue decisively and in a coherent way. The digital economy is here to stay – we must make sure make sure every community can benefit.
“We’re delighted to be working closely with Nominet on our shared ambition to end data poverty for good, shaped and guided throughout by people who truly know what it’s like to be locked out of opportunity and hope by a lack of internet access.”
Good Things Foundation cited research it commissioned from Ipso Mori last year that showed 61% of people agreed that internet access by fixed line or mobile should be recognised as an essential utility, and 47% would donate unused data to low income families in the UK.
It has already worked with Nominet on DevicesDotNow (an emergency appeal in response to Covid-19), Reboot, which helps local organisations and schools access unused devices, and the Everyone Connected programme, which has provided 1,000 disadvantaged people with devices and connectivity.
Image from iStock, Krystian Nawrocki