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 The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded a collaboration between Swansea University, Cardiff University and the University of Glamorgan to develop a research project under the theme of Connected Communities.

The work focused on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) use and connectivity of minority communities in Wales. The study was completed in October 2011 and revealed that ICTs are key to promoting community connectivity in contemporary society in Wales and that sadly minority communities are at risk of both social and digital exclusion.

Dr Panayiota Tsatsou from Swansea University and her colleagues Dr Ian Stafford (Cardiff University), Prof Gary Higgs, Dr Robert Berry and Dr Richard Fry (University of Glamorgan) completed a thorough review of research evidence. Their findings revealed that there is clear anecdotal evidence that minority communities, such as ethnic communities with individual cultural and language attributes, and communities of disabled people, for example, require bespoke policy in order to fully take advantage of communication technologies and to enhance their experiential inclusion and connectivity.

The evidence, however, provided in existing (mostly quantitative) research data, fails to adequately explore these issues in full and some data is both difficult to identify and access.

Therefore the researchers recommended that there is a clear rationale for developing more qualitative, fine grained, community-based research in order to explore the barriers to digital inclusion and the impact of digital inclusion/exclusion within minority groups.

The project coordinator, Dr Tsatsou said,

“AHRC Connected Communities funding allowed researchers from three different Universities in Wales with specialisms in media, geography and policy research to get together and conduct a systematic review of evidence in the interdisciplinary area of communication technologies, and connectivity of minority communities.

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Considering the Welsh context this work aims to enhance existing understanding of the role of new technologies in connectivity and inclusion of minority groups. Key gaps were identified in knowledge of the use of technologies by minority groups and highlighted challenges related to accessing evidence outside of the public domain.

“Finally, preliminary recommendations were made regarding how research should connect with communities and stakeholders to enhance research and inform policy. The researchers envisage developing this work by undertaking, together with communities in Wales, some small-scale, qualitative and community-oriented research so as to produce original evidence.”

For more information on the project and to download the project reports: http://www.wiserd.ac.uk/research/connected-communities/cc/