Developing a New Benchmark: A Minimum Digital Living Standard

What is the basic 'basket' of digital goods, services and skills that different households need to live in a digital world? This briefing outlines the first stages of our research.

It’s time for a new approach to measuring digital inequalities

COVID-19 laid bare long-standing challenges of digital inequalities in the UK. Inequalities with very real consequences for people and places. Inequalities with implications across all areas of policy, provision, business and civil society.

Yet standard policy measures of digital exclusion – based on access to or recent use of internet services – significantly underestimate the challenges faced by households. These measures are also effectively top-down in their assessment of what counts.

It is time for a new citizen and society focused approach to understanding digital inclusion – one which complements existing indices, and puts citizens at the heart of defining what counts.

In 2021, the Nuffield Foundation awarded a research grant for a proof of concept study to establish a benchmark for a minimum digital living standard for households. This takes as a starting point a benchmark for urban households with children in the UK, with potential to evolve the standard for other household types (single, couple, working-age, later life).

This briefing outlines the approach, and presents the definition which has emerged from the first stage of the research with members of the public. This may evolve as the research progresses.

‘A minimum digital standard of living includes, but is more than, having accessible internet, adequate equipment, and the skills, knowledge and support people need. It is about being able to communicate, connect and engage with opportunities safely and with confidence.’