BSA Annual Conference 2016

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Talk: "Levelling the playing field? Tackling digital inequality of young people through a home internet access scheme"

Abstract: Technological solutionist discourses that are shaping public policy suggest digitised public services are cheaper and more efficient, the future of education is digital, and digital entrepreneurialism and silicon zones are a fast track to prosperity. Online social networks are said to enhance our wellbeing, increase our civic and political engagement, and improve our job prospects. Yet, many young people are unable to access these benefits. This study, over a period of two years, has mobilised academics, three secondary schools, an ISP, and a city council to provide a selected group of thirty digitally excluded young people with a free laptop, free access to the Internet at home, and support with developing their digital skills. We used data collected during visits to family homes, workshops and tutorials in schools, and interviews with stakeholders to critically evaluate the scheme’s efficacy and outcomes. Where good intentions have met messy reality the project has opened a portal into these young people’s complicated lives. There are successes; the scheme has changed some families’ lives. Simultaneously, however, the way the project is implemented, funded, and managed; the way structural inequality produces competing priorities and exigencies for the schools and families involved; the young people’s shifting needs and investments in the project; norms and anxieties about youth and technology, and wider attitudes to poverty have all combined here to show the digital revolution is generating new exclusionary mechanisms that are amplifying rather than alleviating the effects of inequality.
Period7 Apr 2016
Event typeConference
LocationBirmingham, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational