Bridging the Digital Divide Research Competition – First Prize Awarded to Gareth Drabble and Dr Drew Whitworth, University of Manchester

The St Helena Research Institute is pleased to announce that Gareth Drabble has been awarded the first prize of £5,000 towards the cost of study in the Bridging the Digital Divide Research Competition sponsored by SHG’s Fibre Optic Cable and Satellite Ground Station Board.

The competition sought to attract research to help St Helena assess change and understand the impact of the introduction of high-speed broadband on St Helena, focusing on the social objectives of the European Development Fund (11th Round) project to enable fibre optic connectivity to St Helena through the Equiano cable.

Gareth, who won a Chevening Scholarship, has been studying for an MA in Digital Technologies, Communication and Education at the University of Manchester. He returns to the Island on the flight this week to complete his studies and resume his work as a Graduate Teacher of Computing & IT at Prince Andrew School. 

Gareth will be conducting the research with Dr Drew Whitworth of the Manchester Institute of Education. The work will use the ‘mapping’ technique developed by Drew in his 2020 book Mapping Information Landscapes: New methods for exploring the development and teaching of information literacy.

Gareth commented:

“I am extremely pleased that our research proposal was awarded first prize in the Bridging the Digital Divide Research Competition. This research will be done at a significant period in St Helena’s history and her socio-economic development.

“The landing of the Equiano undersea cable this year and, once live in early 2022, will open up many prospects for advancements in governance, education, health, business and voluntary.”

Drew added:

“This is an excellent opportunity to research this community before and after this single moment of change. It’s small and very self-contained, which controls a lot of variables, something any researcher is happy to experience.”

Dr Rebecca Cairns-Wicks, Coordinator of the St Helena Research Institute, concluded:

“We are delighted to be able to award Gareth and Drew funding to support their research to help the Island to interpret the changes that significantly increased broadband capabilities can have on people, how we live, learn, manage health and conduct business.”

The study will begin towards the end of 2021, and will continue until after the cable has been landed and the Island benefits from changes in service. The study will significantly support the value for money evaluation which is a requirement when receiving EDF funding from the European Union.

Note to Editors

Further information from Gareth Drabble:

“The title of the research is ‘Mapping the Information Landscapes of St Helena’. In this research project we aim to provide snapshots of these ‘information landscapes’ from the various sectors of Island society before and after the cable goes live. This is done in order to identify the socio-economic impacts of the cable in terms of education, health, business and voluntary sectors.

“When the Equiano cable is fully operational, new sources of information will become available; increased bandwidth will allow the use of different media, whether in telemedicine, learning or entertainment. Therefore new pathways will need to be found and different judgements made regarding quality and relevance. St Helenians’ ways of navigating the information landscape will change, and the Island community has a collective educational task ahead of itself. Hence, in addition, this project, once the data gathered is analysed, will include the designing of materials and short programmes of information literacy education that will be offered via participating institutions. 

“I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to play a part in the Island’s development. This research also perfectly aligns with the dissertation project of my master’s degree in Digital Technology, Communication and Education at the University of Manchester, where I am currently studying. This research will also bring good exposure and publicity for both my University and St Helena as a whole.

“I would like to thank my University academic advisor, Dr Drew Whitworth, for his immense support in preparing our research proposal and for his enthusiasm to partner with me to undertake the actual research work. I look forward to undertaking this research and am greatly interested in analysing its findings, both in a personal and professional capacity.”


The prize was set by the Fibre Optic Cable and Satellite Ground Station Board and funded by EDF11. The competition judging panel included a variety of people across the Island namely Chief Economist, Nicole Shamier, Chief Executive of SURE SA Ltd, Christine Thomas, Deputy IT Manager, Nicole Richards, Chief Environmental Officer, Isabel Peters, and Senior Manager within the Children and Adults Social Care Directorate, Gavin Thomas.

#StHelena #SHRI #BridgingThe DigitalDivide #EDF11 #UniversityOfManchester

24 March 2021

St Helena Government Communications Hub

Telephone: 22470