A presentation by Dr Morgan Harvey on egovernment services and the digital divide

Given that my last in-person research seminar was early last year on 19th February 2020 (when I was the speaker at an event at the University of Glasgow), I was very excited to venture onto campus ten days ago on 17th November 2021 to welcome a visitor to the Centre for Social Informatics. At the invitation of Dr David Brazier, Dr Morgan Harvey, Lecturer in Data Science and Information Retrieval in the Information School at the University of Sheffield, kindly travelled to Edinburgh to present the findings from some research that he conducted when employed at Northumbria University. He also took advantage of the trip north to work with David on revisions to a paper that they have recently co-authored.

Dr Morgan Harvey presentation Edinburgh Napier University

Presenter Dr Morgan Harvey

The theme of Morgan’s presentation – delivered in hybrid mode with around half the membership of Centre for Social Informatics on campus, and the rest on Teams – was egovernment services and the digital divide. Morgan outlined a two-part study designed to investigate the impact of digitisation of UK government and council services with reference to digital exclusion. He undertook this research with his former colleagues David Hastings (Northumbria) and Gobinder Chowdhury (ex-Northumbria, now at Strathclyde). In phase 1, they analysed a year’s worth of data from Newcastle City Council’s customer logs to establish the most common support requests made by the public. In phase 2 they discussed these findings in interviews with staff in customer-facing roles at the city’s flagship central library.

Their main finding was that poor interface design, ineffective access, and low levels of end-user digital literacy are the primary reasons for underuse of egovernment services, and that these factors have hidden costs. They also noted that many members of the population rely on others to mediate their online interactions. In their write-up of the study, Morgan and his team adopted the term ‘digital carer’ for this role. This corresponds with the concept of the ‘digital proxy’ developed by Centre for Social Informatics colleagues, as introduced by Dr Peter Cruickshank in a presentation at Information Seeking in Context (ISIC) 2020 in September last year, and since published in Information Research: Cruickshank, P., Webster G. & Ryan, F. (2020). Assisting information practice: from information intermediary to digital proxy. Information Research 25(4).

The findings of Morgan’s study (and similar work that we in the Centre for Social Informatics have conducted) have implications for service design and delivery, particularly in terms of providing online access to under-served groups, such as the elderly and marginalised, for whom digital by default often means further exclusion.

At the conclusion of Morgan’s talk, we enjoyed a lively discussion with contributions from both sections of the audience. David Brazier (as organiser of the afternoon’s proceedings) expertly chaired the Q&A. The questions covered: practical issues such as securing participation of the case study organisation; requests for further contextual information (we discovered that the study was seed-funded by Northumbria University, and Morgan confirmed that Newcastle’s online services are provided in-house); further detail on aspects of the findings such as the communities most disadvantaged by the shift to digital by default, and the extent to which they might be generalisable across all UK local authorities. The conversation continued amongst those on campus when we switched venue for a round of drinks in a pub near Waverley Station. After Morgan left us to catch his train and others in the party also headed home, six of us stayed out to enjoy further social time together over supper at Holyrood 9a.

To find out more about the project that Morgan presented to us, please see the write-up that has been accepted for publication: Harvey, M., Hastings, D. & Chowdhury, G. (in press). Understanding the costs and challenges of the digital divide through UK council services, Journal of Information Science. Copies of the manuscript can be freely downloaded from two university repositories:

Dr Morgan Harvey Napier presentation final slide

Dr Morgan Harvey’s final slide with paper citation and contact details

European Conference on Information Literacy 2021 (#ECIL2021) videos available

Although we have sorely missed opportunities to travel and hear in person about the research of our colleagues from across the world due to the pandemic restrictions, one advantage of the move to online delivery is that much conference presentation material of recent months has been captured as video.

A case in point is the European Conference on Information Literacy 2021 (ECIL2021), hosted by the University of Bamberg in September 2021. The ECIL YouTube channel now holds 113 video-recorded presentations from the conference, including those presented by two Centre for Social Informatics colleagues. Continue reading

A warm welcome to ‘new’ staff and student colleagues to the Centre for Social Informatics

new csi colleagues November 2021

New Centre for Social Informatics colleagues, autumn 2021 (not pictured: Kenneth Olubusi)

Today the Centre for Social Informatics welcomes its newest member of staff: Dr Frances Ryan has taken up a lecturing post with us. This is a return to our group at Edinburgh Napier University for Frances: she graduated from Napier with a PhD in July 2019. In the intervening time, Frances has been engaged in postdoctoral research, first here at Napier and then at the Universities of Dundee and Aberdeen. Continue reading

The role of information in career development: latest output from Marina Milosheva’s doctoral study

Marina Milosheva

Marina Milosheva

The latest output from Marina Milosheva‘s ESRC/SDS funded doctoral study on career information literacy has recently been published in the Journal of the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling (NICEC Journal). Marina is the lead author of ‘The role of information in career development‘ with her supervision team co-authors: Professor Pete Robertson, Dr Peter Cruickshank, and Professor Hazel Hall.

To date the theme of information in career development has received relatively little research attention. This new paper addresses this gap in the literature by reviewing publications from three domains – Career Studies, Organisational Studies, and Education – produced between 2000 and 2021. Continue reading

Workforce Data Consortium issues invitation to tender for Workforce Mapping Survey 2021/22

The Edinburgh Napier University Workforce Mapping Project team, 2014/15

In 2014/15 I led an Edinburgh Napier University team on a research project to profile the UK information professions. My colleagues were Christine Irving (now retired) and Dr Bruce Ryan of the Centre for Social Informatics; and Professor Robert Raeside (also retired), Dr Matthew Dutton, and Dr Tao Chen (now at the University of Bradford) of the Employment Research Institute. The output was a 186-page report (inclusive of 20 figures and 97 tables of statistics). Continue reading

Call to UK public library staff (any level) to contribute to study on services for refugees and asylum seekers

Do you work with refugees and/or asylum seekers (forced migrants) as part of your role in a UK public library? Can you assist a PhD student with her study on forced migrants’ use of UK public libraries? Perhaps you have colleagues or other contacts who could help out?

Rachel Salzano of Edinburgh Napier University seeks public library staff (at any level) willing to take part in interviews about their experience of delivering public library services to forced migrants. The interviews last approximately 1 hour and are organised at the interviewee’s convenience. Please contact Rachel on the form at https://librariansanslibrary.weebly.com/contact or email r.salzano@napier.ac.uk to contribute to this important work.

Evaluation of engagement with hyperlocal e-participation systems by citizens and representatives: thesis PDF now available

Peter Cruickshank PhD title pageIn July 2021 my Centre for Social Informatics colleague Peter Cruickshank was awarded a doctoral degree for his thesis Evaluation of engagement with hyperlocal e-participation systems by citizens and representatives.

The pdf of the thesis is now freely available for download from the Edinburgh Napier University repository. It will be of interest to all who conduct research on information behaviour and use, and particularly those investigating themes such as everyday life information seeking and information literacy in the context of e-participation. Continue reading

An award for Marianne Wilson

Natural language interfaces to support career decision-making of young people Marianne Wilson TMT three minute thesisCongratulations to Centre for Social Informatics research student Marianne Wilson, winner of the Masters award in the Skills Development (SDS) Scotland Virtual 3MT competition 2021. Continue reading

Dr David Brazier and Marina Milosheva present this week at ECIL 2021 #ecil2021 #ecil21 #infolit

The European Conference on Information Literacy 2021 (ECIL2021) opens today, running for three days until Thursday 23rd September. The work of the Centre for Social Informatics (CSI) will be represented in two presentations at this online event. Continue reading

Dr Bruce Ryan is long-listed for a national award

Dr Bruce Ryan

Dr Bruce Ryan

Dr Bruce Ryan, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, has been long-listed for Scotland’s Library and Information Professional of the Year Award 2021.

This is in recognition of Bruce’s contributions to library and information science (LIS) research in the past year, particularly in respect of the Research Impact Value and LIS (RIVAL) project and conferences hosted by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals Scotland (CILIPS).

For further information about the award, including details of the other five long-listed candidates and sponsor Bolinda Digital, please see the post on the CILIPS web site.