Mapping of Digital Connectivity and Island Governance
: A Comparative Study of the Scottish Archipelagos and Irish Islands.

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by UHI)


To map digital connectivity in rural island contexts; to understand island communities, their relationship with digital connectivity and the governance framework operating in island contexts; to map island communication ecologies (ICEs) in specific island contexts.
Research Questions:
1. To what extent is spatial justice evident in the governance structures that impact on island digital connectivity provision?
2. Are islanders’ experiences of digital connectivity provision consistent with the principles of spatial justice?
3. What island communication ecosystems exist in the case studies?
Theoretical/Conceptual Framework:
Island Studies, Spatial Justice Theory and ICE.
An extensive literature review followed by anthropological fieldwork methods (qualitative fieldwork).
Main Results:
Islandness (a strong place-based identity shaping perspectives of the outside world) and virtual islandness (created by the utilization of ICT devices by islanders and the online environment) existed in each case study. This seemed to be overlooked or under-valued by external and exogenous governance stakeholders The application of spatial justice theory reveal telecommunications market and governance framework failures that were hindering equitable digital connectivity provision. Blanket approaches to infrastructure development take little account of local and/or regional variations in supply, demand, socio-demographics, geography or climatic conditions. Policy-led telecommunications programs have underserved islanders.
Governance differences exist between the devolved system experienced in the Scottish archipelagos and the centralized Irish system. Differences were also found between islands with local government i.e., island-based Councils in the Scottish archipelagos, to islands under the jurisdiction of a mainland-based Council i.e., the islands of West Cork.
In each case study the ICE framework reflected a mix of media and individual ecosystem. ICEs contained virtual communities where islanders could engage with anyone located anywhere.
The provision of digital connectivity is vital for individuals regardless of where they live as it allows them to fully function in the global information society. All the case studies face similar digital connectivity provision challenges and operate within complex governance frameworks.
Date of Award27 Apr 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of the Highlands and Islands
SponsorsESF studentship
SupervisorAndrew Jennings (Supervisor)

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