“Cleaners don't need computers”: bridging the digital divide in the workplace

Louise Cooke (Department of Information Science, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)
Helen Greenwood (LISU, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)

Aslib Proceedings

ISSN: 0001-253X

Publication date: 21 March 2008



The purpose of this paper is to report the findings of research into the extent and impact of restricted access by specific groups of staff to ICT‐based communications in UK further and higher education institutions.


An exploratory approach combining quantitative and qualitative methods. A questionnaire survey was distributed to all HEFCE‐funded institutions in the UK. Six institutions acted as case study sites for in‐depth qualitative investigation using documentary analysis and semi‐structured interviews.


Lack of hardware and network infrastructure posed less of a barrier than lack of ICT skills, lack of motivation either to use computers or to gain ICT skills, and line manager resistance to staff using computers or accessing ICT training in work time. Job function was the factor most associated with lack of access, with cleaning, catering and estates staff least likely to have access. However, there were also many examples of good practice to extend staff access, particularly with regard to ICT training. The research concludes that one of the main concerns for institutions is to “win the hearts and minds” of non‐desk staff and their managers. The development of an institutional communication strategy is identified as being of critical importance.

Research limitations/implications

Provides a “snapshot” of the prevailing situation at the point of data collection rather than a longitudinal insight into developments in access over time.


The first comprehensive analysis of staff access to ICT in UK further and higher education. In addition to highlighting examples of good practice for dissemination across the sector, the research provides information about gaps in provision to inform the targeting of future initiatives.



Cooke, L. and Greenwood, H. (2008), "“Cleaners don't need computers”: bridging the digital divide in the workplace", Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 60 No. 2, pp. 143-157. https://doi.org/10.1108/00012530810862473

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