Internet access among the most income deprived: the case of Glasgow

Anderson, Gillian and Whalley, Jason (2014) Internet access among the most income deprived: the case of Glasgow. In: 25th European Regional Conference of the International Telecommunication Society, 2014-06-22 - 2014-06-25, Belgium.

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Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city and since 2009 it has seen stagnating levels of fixed broadband uptake (Ofcom, 2013). As recently as August 2013, Ofcom reported that fixed broadband uptake in Glasgow remained at 50%; this is significantly below the Scottish average of 68% (Ofcom, 2013). As the ‘Digital by Default’ agenda of the United Kingdom government, which places government services online, becomes ever more pervasive this becomes a more pressing issue for the city. That needs to find ways to increase broadband adoption. There is also a need to uncover the deep seated reasons why there has been no improvement in fixed broadband uptake in the last five years in Glasgow. Internet access is lowest amongst the most deprived in society and those with the lowest incomes (SHS, 2012). Analysis based on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation highlights that ‘income deprivation in Glasgow City is greater than in Scotland as a whole’- 21.5% of Glasgow’s population were income deprived in 2012 (Scottish Government, 2012a, p3). This paper focuses on the deprived areas of Glasgow and whether and how the most disadvantaged in the city use the Internet. The analysis draws on data from the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) and from individuals in deprived areas. This paper will investigate those who do and do not have access to the Internet to answer the following questions:  In areas of deprivation what differentiates those who do and do not have access to the Internet?  Do demographic or geographic factors have greater influence in determining whether a person has access to the Internet at home?  What factors, other than demographics, influence the adoption of the Internet in areas of deprivation? The attitude of individuals towards the Internet rather than demographic factors has been highlighted as an important factor in Glasgow (White, 2013). This paper takes this analysis a step further by targeting the most disadvantaged to ascertain whether neighbourhood effects or attitudes to technology are the most important. This will enable a greater understanding of how to engage those who do not use the Internet. It will also provide insight into the development of policy initiatives in Glasgow to address this particular issue. Since geography plays an influential role in shaping public policy through, for instance, local politics, this paper will initially map the available demographic and economic data. Previous work in Glasgow on public Internet access in areas of deprivation highlighted specific areas of the city with low broadband uptake and high levels of deprivation (Anderson and Whalley, 2013). Although this paper continues in the same vain, it instead focuses on home Internet uptake in similarly deprived areas. This was accomplished by questioning people seeking benefits assistance at Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) across the city. CAB provides impartial advice to those who visit their offices. Each CAB is separately run, with its own funding from Glasgow City Council or other sources. They operate independently, almost like a franchise model. Due to 2 how they are funded, CABs are only meant to serve their immediate local community. Thus, where the CAB is positioned will have a huge effect on who visits. Targeting CAB provides valuable and insightful data from the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society. Those affected by the ‘Digital by Default’ program are the most likely to need to apply for benefits online and provide evidence of job searching to be entitled to benefits. There are several components to the methodology adopted. Firstly, the responses of 950 individuals from eight CABs across the city were analysed to identify differences between those who do and do not have the Internet. This was combined with SIMD data using postcode information. Geographic analysis was also conducted on this data to identify differences between some of the most deprived communities in Glasgow. Secondly, a more detailed data collection on specific identified areas of the city concentrated on collecting information other than that related to the demographic barriers to Internet participation. This provided a further insight into the other barriers to adoption in areas of deprivation. This paper provides valuable insight into the use and non-use of the Internet by the most disadvantaged in Glasgow. It is expected that the first question around the differences of who does and does not have the Internet will be answered by separating the data into groups of five per cent based on their SIMD income rank. This highlights a switching point which was then used as a reference for comparing multiple factors in the dataset. Moreover, this approach highlights that some income groups did not conform to the general pattern. Indeed it could be expected, based on the literature, that higher income would mean that they are more likely to use the Internet and have devices that they can connect to the Internet (Ofcom, 2013, p279). This pattern is not consistent with the analysis of Internet use, where the relationship is non-linear and some groups have higher or lower usage than expected. This highlights that income alone is not a determinant of whether an individual uses the Internet. It also shows that there are variations in use of the Internet and ownership of devices in areas of deprivation that require further investigation. The second and third research questions focus on specific communities within the city. Communities provide different opportunities and barriers to Internet use, even within deprived areas. The geographic analysis of these areas of the city highlights the importance of place, the effects of geography on Internet use and the drivers and barriers specific to each community. This paper provides further insight into Internet use in areas of deprivation that could be of use to similar cities. There are multiple organisations which could assist in addressing the diverse needs of communities in increasing Internet access. However, they will need to work together and be responsive to the diverse needs of these communities. The evidence also provides direction for Glasgow City Council on ways to engage the disconnected, move forward with their Digital Strategy and close the Digital chasm that exists in the city.