SiDE is an interdisciplinary research project aimed at realising the potential for digital technologies to transform the lives of people who are socially excluded.
To date the main thrust of UK and European policy regarding an inclusive information society has focused on increasing the uptake of ICT (the internet, broadband, etc.) and significant progress in this respect has been made in the UK. However, less emphasis has been placed on how technology is used, and in particular how technology can be used to transform lives. This is the gap that SiDE is addressing.
Currently, the potential benefits of the Digital Economy are not being realised by all members of society; it is recognised that digital exclusion mirrors many aspects of more general social exclusion. That is, not just poverty, but the "mutually reinforcing" consequences of citizens enduring unemployment, discrimination, poor housing, crime, bad heath and family breakdown (Fig. 1).
Figure 1.The Factors and Cycle of Social Exclusion
SiDE is focussing on four activities where digital technologies can deliver major social benefits: Connected Community & Community, Accessibility, Inclusive Transport, and the Creative Industries. An interdisciplinary approach is essential for the work to have a real impact, and so these activities are being investigated from the research perspectives of technology, society, business and the user.
Our research is highly user-driven, and we are building a carefully profiled pool of 3000 individuals to help formulate our research strategy and evaluate its results. Many user pool members are older adults who have needs as technology novices as well as issues of acquired disability associated with ageing. Others represent disabled users, having vision, hearing, mobility, cognitive processing, or literacy issues that serve to limit their access to much of today's digital economy. While recognising the different needs and concerns of these users, our methodologies seek to bring out commonalities through genuinely interactive and iterative approaches that engage all users from the very start.
Social exclusion is a complex and increasing problem. SiDE researchers are therefore working directly with these marginalised groups to understand their needs, and explore the potential for digital technologies and approaches to transform lives.
You will find details of the research projects being undertaken by SiDE on this web site. If you are an individual or organisation with an interest in tackling issues of social exclusion then we would like to hear from you.