Norwich Good Economy Commission: Digital Innovation and Inclusion


Established in June 2020, the Norwich Good Economy Commission (NGEC) is a collaboration between the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich City Council and other prominent organisations in the city of Norwich. This partnership was established in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic with a view to fostering collaboration between these organisations, identifying the key issues faced by the Norwich economy and its residents, and developing and delivering meaningful solutions to these problems. NGEC currently consists of four workstreams: Social Enterprise, Digital Innovation and Inclusion, Communications, and Skills. 

Task / Brief 

The purpose of the Digital Innovation and Inclusion workstream is to create novel and effective methods of increasing access to technological devices, broadband connectivity and boosting digital skills and confidence within the Norwich community. 

In order to inform the development of such methods, research into the main barriers to digital inclusion was needed. Through a combination of desk-based research and conversations with representatives from the voluntary, statutory and private sectors, four main barriers were identified. These included: Access, Skills and Confidence, Motivation, and Others (i.e. a combination of barriers). These findings then informed the proposal of five key challenges that need to be addressed in order to tackle digital exclusion in Norwich. 

To address these challenges, Norwich-based organisations were encouraged to come up with their own projects or research proposals and apply for funding from NGEC in order to deliver them. Following an initial expression of interest, the strongest applications that aligned with NGEC’s ethos were invited to a workshop to meet the other applicants and foster collaboration. In total, five projects were approved which addressed three of the five key challenges. 

Once these projects were underway, the workstream turned its attention to the issue of digital inclusion in social housing as this was one of the key challenges not addressed by the funded projects. In order to gain insight into how digital exclusion affects Norwich social housing residents, representatives from various social housing providers were invited to attend a workshop to discuss their own awareness of the issue, share their tenants’ experiences and also inform others of the current and future provisions in place to help residents.


In addition to funding five digital inclusion projects, the social housing workshop allowed the workstream to acquire a more comprehensive understanding of the barriers to digital inclusion faced by social housing tenants. Furthermore, the various social housing providers present at the workshop expressed an interest in continuing a dialogue with the other participants, both around digital inclusion issues and also wider issues such as financial exclusion. The key learnings from this workshop are due to be published in a report made publicly available on the NGEC website. 


“Sophie has been such as pleasure to work with on the Norwich Good Economy Commission Digital Exclusion stream of work. She has conducted some high-quality desk-based research informing our key challenge areas, which became our strategy for distributing funding. She engaged in meetings with all different kinds of organisations, taking notes and minutes and turning them into compelling reports, as well as giving her very thoughtful additions to our conversations. Her energy and enthusiasm is always appreciated and we are so thankful for the opportunity to work with Sophie through the Gateway to Growth programme.”

– Laura Wigby, Digital Inclusion Officer, Norwich City Council 

Personal Insights

“I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing how far the workstream has come since I joined the project last October. It has been incredibly fulfilling to see how research completed earlier in the project has informed and produced tangible results such as being able to fund projects that will hopefully make a meaningful difference.” 

– Sophie Bitten, Gateway to Growth Intern