Digital inclusion and social inclusion: a tale of two cities

Kieran Mervyn, Anoush M Simon, David K. Allen

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This paper presents results of a recent research project that focuses on the influence of mobile technologies on social exclusion. It investigates the impact of two distinct approaches by local government to providing access to local support and services. Aug City advocated a bottom-up infrastructure-based model with non-state involvement after the technology was embedded. Conversely, Mobile City used a centrally planned model where the state acted as service custodians through teams of visiting officers and a mobile office. A case study approach was utilized focusing on two urban area of the UK, that adopted contrasting initiatives for implementing mobile information and communication technologies (MICT) to provide access to local government support and services. Activity Theory was used to provide a theoretical and analytical framework. A range of pre-existing information needs and barriers were revealed, but in some cases the technology itself presented a barrier. Issues with literacy, technology skills and in some cases the socioemotional condition of some of the socially excluded combined with the complexity of their information needs fundamentally undermines the direct access model for this section of the community. There are implications for social policy and practice. It is important to understand and address existing information needs and barriers (such as literacy and IT literacy, and social-emotional issues), ahead of new MICT initiatives to ensure the fullest chance of success and benefit for targeted communities and individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1086-1104
Number of pages19
JournalInformation, Communication & Society
Issue number9
Early online date11 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2014


  • digital divide
  • e-government
  • social exclusion
  • information needs
  • MICT
  • m-government


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