Understanding digital inequalities in Milton Keynes

This mixed methods research project's aim was to work with local people and organisations to better understand digital inequalities in mental health with the aim of reducing inequalities when redesigning services, with a focus area on adults with severe mental illness in Milton Keynes.

Central and North West London NHS Foundation MK Trust
April 2022 to July 2022
Desk-based review, data research, stakeholder interviews, citizen interviews, asset mapping workshop

What we were asked to do

In spring 2022, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust commissioned the Ideas Alliance to help them get a better understanding of service user, carers, families and community experience of digital inequalities for adults with mental illness across Milton Keynes. The purpose of this work was to help with developing recommendations for tackling digital inequalities when redesigning their services, whilst working more closely with community and voluntary organisations.

This brief included a request for a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches and mapping of existing assets and gaps.

What we did

We spoke to a wide range of groups and organisations in Milton Keynes as well as people with severe mental illness to find out what they wanted from digital services as well as what their barriers were.

We embarked upon a mixed methods approach including a desk-based review and data analysis, citizen and stakeholder interviews, asset mapping workshop and we created a slide deck of our findings and key learning.

What happened

We found there were four simple categories that define digital exclusion:

  1. Access – devices, software, privacy.
  2. Connectivity – WiFi, broadband.
  3. Skills – training, knowledge, literacy levels, language.
  4. Motivation – relevance (seeing a need), safety concerns, care concerns (digital care versus face-to-face).

We used these four categories to help us break down and understand digital exclusion for people with a mental illness in Milton Keynes. We also created a set of seven personas to bring to life some of the stories we heard from our interviews.

In our asset mapping workshop, we looked at what things are available in Milton Keynes that could help break down barriers to people engaging with digital technology. We found that people could be motivated by things that make them feel good, for example, being able to take photos and sending them to friends, using a printer to print them off, or using a word processor to type up their creative writing.

We then facilitated a workshop to co-design next steps with the transformation team (NHS, voluntary sector, housing and health) on how they could take this work forward.


Photo by Soumil Kumar.

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