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Gateways to the virtual society: innovation for social inclusion

Principal Researcher

Dr Sonia Liff
Warwick Business School
Warwick University
Coventry CV4 7AL
+44 (0)1203 522656


Dr Fred Steward
Aston Business School

Dr Peter Watts
Canterbury Christ Church University College

Research Period
1 November 1997 to
30 October 1999
Aims and Objectives
Project Design


The information technology revolution is accompanied by concern as to whether all members of society will be participants. Fears have been expressed that traditional social inequalities may be continued, or even magnified, in the form of divisions between 'information rich' and 'information poor'. Anxieties are also voiced that familiar forms of community interaction may be displaced by indirect and individualistic communication. One response to these concerns is the recognition of a need for new provisions for social inclusion within the 'information society' and public access to the 'information superhighway'. A host of new initiatives have been taken to facilitate the use of computers and information networks through publicly accessible 'gateways' such as telecottages, cybercafes, information kiosks and community networks.

Aims and Objectives

The aims and objectives are to:

  • define the different types of gateway institution which are designed to facilitate public access to information and communication technology

  • analyse the dimensions of social inclusion - such as who is to be included, in what and how - expressed in the form of these new sites

  • explore the organisational culture of these gateways including managerial behaviour and patterns of discourse

  • map out the social networks of interaction facilitated through these gateways

  • assess the actual and potential achievement of social inclusion goals through such innovations in public access.

Project Design

The different types of gateway and their approach to social inclusion are investigated through an international review of documentary sources with a focus on the relationship between institutional innovation and policy discourse. Organisational culture and social networks are investigated through detailed empirical observation and interviews at a sample of public access gateways. These are selected to represent the main types and are located in the UK, Scandinavia and the USA.


A clearer understanding of how information technology gateways are organised, managed and used will enable their effectiveness in encouraging access and participation to be assessed. A deeper understanding of user needs and interests and routes for their expression will also result. The findings will be relevant to the broad policy perspective and to practical approaches for specific organisations.



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Page developed and maintained by Christine Hine
Contents current at 12th December 2000