Drivers and Effects of Digital Poverty across Local Communities in the UK

University of Sheffield

Drivers and Effects of Digital Poverty across Local Communities in the UK
Management School
PhD Research Project Competition Funded Students Worldwide
 Prof Vania Sena
Application Deadline: 10 April 2023


Project Partner: David and Jane Richards Family Foundation, WANdisco, Digital Poverty Alliance

Primary Supervisor: Vania Sena ([email protected], webpage here

Academic supervisors: Enrico Vanino, Siobhan McAndrew

Research Themes: Economics, Geography and Spatial Analysis, Social Inequality

Project description:

The aim of this project is to assess the drivers and the effects of digital poverty across local communities in the UK. It will rely on primary data collected through questionnaires, and on secondary data from several administrative data sources, to analyse both drivers and impacts of digital poverty. In particular, the project will be centred around several experiments where local communities in Sheffield and elsewhere will receive access to reliable high-speed broadband connection at cost price, giving the possibility to assess the local drivers of digital poverty, and the impact for disadvantaged households on several socio-economic indicators, such as education achievements, labour market participation, and community engagement.

This is an interdisciplinary PhD project spanning economic geography, regional studies and digital inclusion. The PhD student will have the opportunity to work on the first experiment of this kind in England, analysing how access to broadband could improve socio-economic conditions for households in deprived areas. This project is among the first ones worldwide to provide a robust and comprehensive analysis of digital poverty drivers and of its effects across households. The findings will help policymakers better understand how to reduce digital access inequalities across local communities. The partnership with the Digital Poverty Alliance will provide invaluable feedback throughout the PhD period to the student, offering the possibility of a secondment at the Digital Poverty Alliance to develop the skills needed to translate academic research into evidence-based policies.

The PhD student will be part of an active and multicultural cohort of PhD students based in the Department of Economics working on topics related to economic geography, the spatial distribution of economic activities and local labour markets. The student will also be part of the Sheffield Urban, International Trade and Environmental Economics (SUITE) research group and benefit from access to the doctoral training in economics programme, PhD reading groups, and the annual departmental PhD conference (visit for more information). 

This project would be well suited to a student with a background in economics, geography, sociology, or other social sciences. Solid data analysis skills and a strong interest in economic geography and digital poverty would be an advantage.

Entry requirements


  • 2:1 honours degree, or equivalent, in a relevant subject area

English language requirements (for international/EU candidates)

You have must have one or more of the following:

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System) – 7 overall, 7 writing, 6 other sections
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) Internet based test – 100 overall, 25 writing, 22 other sections
  • A degree in any subject completed in the English language from a majority English speaking country may also be acceptable – please check here for the country where you completed your degree.


A standard studentship covers the cost of tuition fees, provides a doctoral stipend of £16,062, ( 2022 rate- to increase slightly each year with inflation), and a Research Training Support Grant, for four years. Applications will be open to both Home and International fee rated applicants.

Study mode

Options to study part-time are available, if you wish to study part-time please indicate this when you apply. If selected for interview, the project supervisor will discuss options with you.

This studentship is part of the Data Analytics and Society CDT. Applications should be made through the University of Leeds portal. More information is available here.

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