Centre for Digital Citizens - Next Stage Digital Economy Centre

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Computing


The Centre for Digital Citizens (CDC) will address emerging challenges of digital citizenship, taking an inclusive, participatory approach to the design and evaluation of new technologies and services that support 'smart', 'data-rich' living in urban, rural and coastal communities. Core to the Centre's work will be the incubation of sustainable 'Digital Social Innovations' (DSI) that will ensure digital technologies support diverse end-user communities and will have long-lasting social value and impact beyond the life of the Centre. Our technological innovations will be co-created between academic, industrial, public and third sector partners, with citizens supporting co-creation and delivery of research. Through these activities, CDC will incubate user-led social innovation and sustainable impact for the Digital Economy (DE), at scale, in ways that have previously been difficult to achieve.

The CDC will build on a substantial joint legacy and critical mass of DE funded research between Newcastle and Northumbria universities, developing the trajectory of work demonstrated in our highly successful Social Inclusion for the Digital Economy (SIDE) hub, our Digital Civics Centre for Doctoral Training and our Digital Economy Research Centre (DERC). The CDC is a response to recent research that has challenged simplified notions of the smart urban environment and its inhabitants, and highlighted the risks of emerging algorithmic and automated futures. The Centre will leverage our pioneering participatory design and co-creative research, our expertise in digital participatory platforms and data-driven technologies, to deliver new kinds of innovation for the DE, that empowers citizens.

The CDC will focus on four critical Citizen Challenge areas arising from our prior work: 'The Well Citizen' addresses how use of shared personal data, and publicly available large-scale data, can inform citizens' self-awareness of personal health and wellbeing, of health inequalities, and of broader environmental and community wellbeing; 'The Safe Citizen' critically examines online and offline safety, including issues around algorithmic social justice and the role of new data technologies in supporting fair, secure and equitable societies;
'The Connected Citizen' explores next-generation citizen-led digital public services, which can support and sustain civic engagement and action in communities, and engagement in wider socio-political issues through new sustainable (openly managed) digital platforms; and 'The Ageless Citizen' investigates opportunities for technology-enhanced lifelong learning and opportunities for intergenerational engagement and technologies to support growth across an entire lifecourse. CDC pilot projects will be spread across the urban, rural and costal geography of the North East of England, embedded in communities with diverse socio-economic profiles and needs.

Driving our programme to address these challenges is our 'Engaged Citizen Commissioning Framework'. This framework will support citizens' active engagement in the co-creation of research and critical inquiry. The framework will use design-led 'initiation mechanisms' (e.g. participatory design workshops, hackathons, community events, citizen labs, open innovation and co-production platform experiments) to support the co-creation of research activities. Our 'Innovation Fellows' (postdoctoral researchers) will engage in a 24-month social innovation programme within the CDC. They will pilot DSI projects as part of highly interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder teams, including academics and end-users (e.g. Community Groups, NGO's, Charities, Government, and Industry partners). The outcome of these pilots will be the development of further collaborative bids (Research Council / Innovate UK / Charity / Industry funded), venture capital pitches, spin-outs and/or social enterprises. In this way the Centre will act as a catalyst for future innovation-focused DE activity.

Planned Impact

The Centre for Digital Citizens (CDC) will collaborate with its large network of partners to provide routes to impact. The co-created nature of the research programme will ensure that it addresses the real-world needs of our partner organisations, from inception through to exploitation. Below we summarise key impacts that the Centre will have, split out by beneficiary:

1) Commercial / industry partners: Will benefit from direct tech-transfer from research projects; the development of new citizen data commons resources, which will have commercially exploitable value and support new kinds of digital service; ethical guidelines and best practice knowledge transfer for the design of socially inclusive and fair digital services; and new spin-out developments and social enterprise creation, designed to work collaboratively with industry partners, creating new business opportunities.

2) Venture capital funders: Will benefit from access to a new source of piloted, user-led and co-created digital technology platforms and services, available for financing and development.

3) Government: Will benefit from future public service delivery policy development. We will continue to inform Government agencies around best practice, addressing issues of digital citizenship, including local government service provision, civic engagement / consultation and urban planning. There will be tech transfer through Local Government adoption of digital platforms. We will work with cross-council authorities (North of Tyne Combined and NE LEP) to reconcile policy and service commissioning recommendations across authority boundaries.

4) Charities and third sector groups: Are underserved communities receiving relatively little support from the digital sector, often due to their budgetary constraints, yet are increasingly important for citizens to access services and experience citizenship. DERC and Digital Civics work has shown this sector offers a rich and vibrant economy that would benefit from greater adoption of digital platforms to help commission, deliver and coordinate services. New kinds of digital economies could thrive with new kinds of digital service developed through the CDC. These services will offer direct economic benefit such as cost savings, efficiencies and increased organisational reach, to charities and third sector groups.

5) Learning communities: Lifelong learning platforms developed by the CDC will provide opportunities for educational enrichment and digital skills development at a number of levels. Such opportunities will be provided within schools and beyond including reskilling post-formal education. This is likely to have an impact on the numbers of skilled people in work, and could provide numerous opportunities for older adult (including peri-retired and retired) populations.

6) Citizens and local communities: large numbers of citizens (estimated 1000+) will benefit from involvement in either social innovation pilots or the Citizen's Assembly. Pilots will be embedded in NE communities with unmet needs and whose sense of citizenship is impacted by health inequality, online harms, a lack of community infrastructure and connectivity, and limited lifecourse development opportunities. The CDC will also provide new data resources, and models of common data ownership and re-use. These will pilot direct economic benefits for citizens and provide new routes to activism and campaigning on local issues. Those using services piloted through the CDC will also receive the wellbeing benefits of more and better service access, and greater participatory voice in service development and provision.

7) DE Researchers: will benefit from Digital Social Innovation training. The pipeline of DE trained researchers will be increased, in academic, government, commercial and third sectors. With a broad range of skills, these researchers will directly contribute to the digital economy and will provide increasing levels of social innovation.


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Are C (2023) The assemblages of flagging and de-platforming against marginalised content creators in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies

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Barika M (2021) Online Scheduling Technique To Handle Data Velocity Changes in Stream Workflows in IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems

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Branley-Bell D (2022) Exploring Age and Gender Differences in ICT Cybersecurity Behaviour in Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies

Description The work of this award is currently emerging. We have provided insight across a number of areas of civic life including access to health and care services, design and use of public transport systems, social media use and online harms, and engagement with information resources in rural communities. There is also growing insight around methodologies for community engagement and participation in the co-design and delivery of services.
Exploitation Route Methodological insights support forms of community engagement and participation in public service planning and delivery.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Transport

URL https://digitalcitizens.uk/blog/
Title Deconf conferencing platform 
Description Deconf (de-centralised conference) is an Open Source library for building virtual conference platforms developed by Open Lab at Newcastle University. It has been developed with the learnings of running several online conferences since 2020. Scalable - Deconf is designed to run with thousands of concurrent visitors. The infrastructure is designed to run as stateless containers that scale horizontally to accomodate more and more traffic. Decisions favor up-front computation so the visitor experience is as uncomputational as possible. The internal schedule information is processed in the background, not on-demand and the client app is a bundled SPA requiring even less server computation. Agnostic - Deconf is built to work with as many different platforms as possible. It doesn't provide any video streaming out of the box but instead makes it easy to get visitors into a Zoom room, watch a Vimeo livestream or prerecorded YouTube video. Customisable - Deconf is a library for making your own conference platform, not a SaaS platform you go to to host something. This allows deployments created with the library can be completely bespoke and not something generic. The api and ui libraries are build up of modules that you can swap in and out to customise everything. Features An Atrium, which is the homepage for attendees with live stats, helpful links to get about and embedded onboarding media. A "Session Grid" page to show subsets of sessions in a non-temporal format. A chronological schedule page that groups sessions by start/end time and prioratises sessions that are live Detailed pages for each session with relevant links and embeds, for example, embedding a YouTube video or a Zoom call-to-action and linking to a Miro board Registration and magic-link based login pages to quickly get into the conference via an email Real-time interpretation during live events, so attendees can tune-in to live interpretation and experience the conference in English, French, Spanish or Arabic All copy is built to be localised to it can be customised or translated as required and the ui is built for RTL and LTR orientations. 
Type Of Technology e-Business Platform 
Year Produced 2020 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact It has been used for several conferences including: climate:red 2020 with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) was the first prototype for Deconf and is what the initial version of the libraries were based on. Over 10,000 people from 195 countries registered for the Summit. During the 31 consecutive hours it ran for they had between 1,300 - 2,800 people online at most times. MozFest 2021 the annual conference for Mozilla was the first deployment of Deconf. The libraries were made to adapt the logic from climate:red so it could be repurposed for MozFest. planet:Red with the IFRC was the next deployment of Deconf. It was used to convert planet:red into a Deconf deployment as the initial prototype contained no shared code in the end. It was a good oppertunity to refine the Deconf libraries to make them more customisable and add new features/configurations based on the MozFest deployment. This lead to lots of breaking changes but ended up with more flexible APIs and components. MozFest 2022 was the next deployment of Deconf which nicely inherited lots of improvements from the planet:Red deployment and added back more customisations and configurations to the libraries. 
URL https://github.com/digitalinteraction/deconf
Title MetroFutures consultation 
Description The MetroFurtures website for the Tyne and Wear Metro 2020 consultation includes: Explore your new Metro: Move around 360-degree images at seven points in and around the train to discover new features and provide feedback on them. Configure your new Metro: Some design decisions remain to be made on your new Metro. Let us know your preferences by trying out options for seven different features. You can then share your ideal Metro with us and on social media. Explore your journeys: Six people and six different journeys that reflect real experiences of travelling on Metro and other trains that people have shared with us. Step into their shoes, experience the new trains from their points of view, and think about how well they fit their needs. Each journey consists of six video clips with one or more questions after each. Pick someone to begin. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2020 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Thr consultation received over 23,000 responses and was one of the biggest public consultations the rail industry has ever seen. MetroFutures won the Technical Innovation of the Year - Rolling Stock award at the Global Light Rail Awards. Nexus also celebrated three Gold awards and one Silver Award at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations North East Pride ceremony during the same week. Nexus was also named winner for Regional Campaign of the Year, Best Use of Content and Best Use of Digital and Social Media and coming runner up in the Best Public Sector Campaign category. 
URL https://metrofutures.org.uk/