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About MDLS
Responding to the challenges experienced by households in using digital technology

We are developing a Minimum Digital Living Standard (MDLS) for households with children across the UK. We have also been working closely with the Welsh Government to develop an MDLS for Wales and understand how Welsh stakeholders can make use of the MDLS measure. This work is a response to the significant challenges that households still experience across the UK in accessing digital technology to support members work, education, leisure, health, and wellbeing.
By developing the MDLS we are looking to establish a UK benchmark for digital inclusion at a household level. We have started with households with children in urban areas and we aim to develop the MDLS for all other household types

This is a ‘proof of concept’ study capitalising on the well-established Minimum Income Standard (MIS) methodology. Through employing a deliberative approach, the team will develop a framework that encapsulates digital needs and explores the implications of not having these. The project seeks to move digital inclusion policy and research debates beyond simple measures of access and skills.  This research has been funded by Nuffield Foundation, Welsh Government, and Nominet.

Research process at a glance
The Stages
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.
The first stage of research (orientation) was to develop a shared definition. This comprised four focus groups with members of the public during February and March 2022 in England, Scotland and Wales. These groups included: people of working-age and pension age, and households with and without dependent children.
The orientation groups generated rich discussions around living in a digital world, the benefits and drawbacks, and the implications of being digitally included or excluded.
  • Needing to participate in a digital world was seen as inevitable;
  • Importance of digital inclusion across all aspects of life, with Covid accelerating this;
  • Benefits include social connection, convenience, instant access to information, choices, expanded horizons, navigation, safety, saving money, entertainment, and sustainability;
  • Harms included scams, misinformation, impulse buying, affects on family life, mental health, costs of tech, feeling forced to go online, and loss of human contact in services.

Three iterative stages of deliberative groups have been completed – task groups, check back, and final groups. Groups discuss in detail what they feel families with children need to meet the definition. At each stage, groups are freshly recruited to test and broaden public consensus. Through this, consensus will be reached on the detailed standard.

In-depth group consultations will explore the relevance of the standard with regard to key dimensions of lived experience and intersectionality, such as disability, ethnicity, rurality, poverty.
The standard will then be used to develop survey measures. These will go through three iterations of expert, stakeholder and citizen testing before conducting 1500 in-person interviews, using face to face recruitment to ensure access to citizens without internet access.
The survey data will then be analysed with geodemographic data to produce a Mapbook with estimated rates for the number of households which meet the standard.
Young people’s perspectives

With funding from Nominet, additional groups with young people will ensure young people’s perspectives on a minimum acceptable digital life are included in setting a standard for UK urban households with children. Insights will contribute to Nominet’s benchmarking research on young people’s digital experiences – the Nominet Digital Youth Index.

Key Events Across the Project
June 2022
UK MDLS – Stakeholder event and briefing
(orientation phase)
September 2022
Welsh MDLS – Stakeholder event with Digital Inclusion Alliance Wales
September 2022

Digital Inclusion, Policy and Research Conference 2022

October 2022
Welsh MDLS – Phase one report to the Welsh Government
November 2022
UK MDLS Stakeholder event and briefing (headlines – deliberative groups)
February 2023
UK MDLS – Report on findings from deliberative groups
February 2023

Welsh MDLS – Report

March 2023
UK MDLS – Stakeholder event and briefing (headlines – survey research)
March - May 2023
Series of in-depth group stakeholder consultations
September 2023

Digital Inclusion, Policy and Research Conference 2023

October 2023

Publication of survey findings and map book

January 2024

Launch of final MDLS Reports, MacBook, and supporting resources


With funding from the Welsh Government, and in partnership with Cwmpas and the Digital Inclusion Alliance Wales, work has been completed developing  a Minimum Digital Living Standard (MDLS) for Wales. This follows a Welsh Government public consultation to review current national indicators which identified the need for several new indicators including ‘The Status of Digital Inclusion’. The outcomes from the Minimum Digital Living Standard for Wales will support this new national indicator.

We seek to develop an MDLS for Wales based on the goals of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, that can help deliver the ‘The Status of Digital Inclusion’ national indicator included by the Senedd in December 2021. This interview study forms the first phase of the project. This seeks to undertake an extensive engagement with Welsh stakeholders on the form and content of a Welsh MDLS.

Representatives of key stakeholder organisations working to address digital inclusion in Wales were selected. Interviews explored their organisations opinions on the form and content of a Welsh MDLS. It also explored policy and practice implications or interventions that they felt would best support the uptake of a Welsh MDLS. Interviews were semi-structured and explored the negatives of not meeting the MDLS on different aspects of citizens’ wellbeing – social, economic, health and cultural. We asked participants to consider the level of digital need and inclusion presented through MDLS, its achievability and how to get there for Welsh Citizens. Finally, we asked them to consider what would help or hinder you or your organisation to overcome the barriers to delivering an agreed MDLS.

Additional MDLS groups – building on the UK MDLS project – were undertaken.  These included households across a range of Welsh locations and included a group with Welsh young people.