DERC: Digital Economy Research Centre

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Computer Science

Abstract

The Digital Economy Research Centre (DERC) will theorise, design, develop, and evaluate new digitally mediated models of citizen participation that engage communities, the third sector, local government and (crucially) the commercial digital economy in developing the future of local service provision and local democracy.

DERC will deliver a sustained program of multi- and cross- disciplinary research using research methods that are participatory, action-based, and embedded in the real world. The research approach will operate across multiple scales (e.g. individual, family, community, institution) and involve long-term embedded research activity at scale.

The overarching challenges are significant:

-- the development of new technologies and cloud-based platforms to provide access to open and citizen-generated data, big data analytics and software services at scale to support trusted communication, transactions, and co-production between coalitions of citizens, local government, the third and commercial sectors;

-- the development of participatory methods to design digital services to support citizen prosumption at the scales of communities and beyond;

-- the development of new cross-disciplinary insights into the role of digital technologies to support these service delivery contexts as well as understandings of the interdependency between contexts and their corresponding services.

The backbone of this research agenda is a commitment to social inclusion and the utilisation of participatory processes for user engagement, consultation and representation in the design and adoption of new forms of digital services. The main research themes of DERC address the development of models of digitally enabled citizen participation in local democracy (planning), public health, social care and education, and the nature of new civic media to support these.

The Centre's research will be conducted in the context of local government service provision in the Northeast of England, in close partnership with Newcastle City Council, Gateshead Council and Northumberland, and supported by a consortium of key commercial, third sector and professional body partners. DERC's extensive program of research, knowledge exchange and public engagement activities will involve over 20 postdoctoral researchers and 25 investigators from Computer Science (HCI, Social Computing, Cloud Computing, Security), Business & Economics, Behavioural Science, Planning, Education, Statistics, Social Gerontology, Public Health and Health Services Research.

Planned Impact

DERC will pursue an 'in the wild' program of research one theorising, designing, developing, and evaluating personal & community-based digital technologies to explore and create new forms of participatory citizenship that support local communities, local service provision, and local democracy. DERC will work directly with three local authority partners (in the Northeast of England), a variety of SMEs and NGOs and some larger international corporations. As such there are numerous potential direct beneficiaries of the Centre:

(1) Firstly, there are the researchers themselves who will develop there capabilities as highly skilled academic and applied researchers - well-versed in interdisciplinary collaboration and capable of transferring, leveraging and exploiting the insight generated from their research, and who are able to contribute to the economic and social development of the UK.

(2) DERC's research will be focused on supporting local communities, and given the aim to enhance public service provision and support engagement in local issues it is highly likely that this research will enhance quality of life, health and wellbeing in these areas, improve social welfare and social cohesion in the participating communities and generally increase public awareness of social and economic issues that are likely to be affecting these research participants, and this will be done at various levels from older adults through to school-aged communities.

(3) The research is also intended to have policy impact at a national level, and through our direct collaboration with our participating local authority partners the research activities will directly influence policy making at local, regional and national levels. Case-based research at the scale to be conducted by DERC will transform evidence-based policy, and provide evidence to support changing organisational cultures and practices (for example enhancing the role of public participation in local governance) and through shaping and enhancing the effectiveness of public services, by directly designing and developing digital augmentations. As such the research activities will be specifically designed to enhance the efficiency, performance and sustainability of public services through the user-centred development of new digital technologies and the promotion of local activism and civic engagement.

(4) Another significant impact of DERC will be the development of the employees of our non-academic collaborators through active processes of knowledge transfer that will ultimately both contribute towards wealth creation and economic prosperity by supporting the enhancement of research capacity, knowledge and skills in these businesses and organisations, and also lead to commercialisation of DERC research outcomes through uptake of open technologies and the formation of spin-out companies, joint ventures and social enterprises that service private, public and third sectors customers.

Publications


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