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Jenny presents ‘Smartphone by Default’ to Ofcom stakeholders

Does technology bring us together or is it driving new kinds of inequality? Are we entering a Utopian era of free-flowing information, or limiting our horizons with streamlined media? What happens when people stop questioning the content and breadth of their information sources?

These are some of the deeper questions touched upon during Ofcom Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes event, where our Associate Director Jenny Holland introduced findings from our recent report on smartphone-only internet access.

The study was commissioned by Ofcom to explore the needs, attitudes and experiences of those who only access the internet via their smartphone – either through choice or due to (often difficult) circumstances. The full report can be read here.

Ofcom’s latest statistics suggest that ‘smartphone by default’ internet users now comprise 6% of the population, and the trend is growing apace. Hitherto, the implications have been relatively hidden, but our research clearly demonstrates why policy-makers and developers alike need to take account of the experiences of those unable or unwilling to access the internet through a range of devices.

The trend is particularly concerning in relation to vulnerable people – e.g. homeless or elderly people, whose struggle to access online services may be compounded by the limitations in function or content associated with smartphone-only access. This is especially relevant in light of the government’s ‘digital by default’ strategy, whereby key services are increasingly moving online – raising questions as to whether a reliance on smartphones causes new axes of ‘digital exclusion’, and what impact these will have.

In bringing to life our findings for a broad range of Ofcom’s stakeholders – from media providers and academic researchers to the digital exclusion specialists at the Tinder Foundation – it was clear that the issue is fast gaining momentum among key audiences, and we are delighted to have been able to bring new evidence and depth to Ofcom’s understanding of the phenomenon.


ESRO shortlisted for MRS Public Policy/Social Research award

We’re delighted to have been shortlisted in the Public Policy/Social Research category of this year’s Market Research Society awards for our work with the Financial Conduct Authority on consumer vulnerability.

Completed earlier this year, ‘Vulnerability Exposed’ (right, report available here) has helped the FCA to transform its discussions with financial services firms about how they can better meet the needs of consumers in a variety of vulnerable circumstances.

The impact of the study is being felt throughout the industry - and among other regulators - and we’re hugely excited that its influence has been recognised by the MRS and its judges.

Having won the Public Policy/Social Research three times since 2010, we’ve got our fingers crossed that we can add to our tally when this year’s MRS Awards are presented on 7th December in central London.



Earlier this year, we were commissioned by the Behavioural Insights Team at the Department of Health to understand why parents of young children with non-urgent conditions attend A&E – even at times when more suitable options like family GPs or pharmacists are available.

Using a mix of literature review, local area service mapping and ethnographic depth interviews, we analysed data through the lens of various behavioural biases and principles to understand the root causes of parents’ decision-making. The overall aim was to develop a practical toolkit which could be used by healthcare professionals to identify a range of cost-effective approaches to help parents make more suitable choices when concerned about their children’s health.

The full report is now available in the publications section of our website.

It reveals that – although most of those parents we interviewed agreed that emergency departments should be for emergencies only – there were a wide range of factors that ‘nudged’ them towards seeing it as a good option. Examples included the perceived additional expertise of A&E staff cued by job roles, uniforms and the visibility of ‘technical’ equipment. 

We also concluded that wider social trends – notably the erosion of traditional family support networks and pressure from online social media – are making parents increasingly anxious about making a bad decision.

We’ve since used the insights to identify new opportunities to reduce the ‘non-urgent’ burden on A&E departments, including:

  • Measures to enhance the perceived specialism of other health services to offset A&E’s reputation as the ‘go-to’ place for expert care
  • Upskilling parents so they have more confidence in their abilities to diagnose children’s symptoms and make health-related parenting decisions
  • Creating greater consistency in how alternative services are designed, delivered and packaged

We’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the project, and especially those busy parents who gave up their time to speak to our researchers. We’re hugely proud of the report, which we believe is a perfect illustration of how behavioural science can be used to make sense of complex and costly behaviours, and help clients make simple changes that have profound knock-on effects.

For more information on the report or any of its findings, please contact Tom Brown (, 020 7735 8040).


New office

After four happy years in Vauxhall, we’re delighted to announce that ESRO has relocated to an amazing new office close to Clapham Common tube station. 

We are now to be found on the ground floor of ‘Maritime House’ - a beautiful 1939 building in Clapham Old Town, which is just a five-minute walk from the tube. A map and full contact details are available here. Our phone number remains the same: 020 7735 8040.

We can’t wait to welcome people to our elegant and versatile new space, which we’ve equipped with numerous bespoke breakout areas, plus a state-of-the-art workshop/focus group room.


Benefits cuts and BAME women: Challenging assumptions

One of the great things about this job is getting out of the office and meeting real people, and one of the great things about meeting people is that they have a remarkable ability to surprise you and challenge your assumptions.

As an example, I recently met a young Muslim lady at a female only sports session. Ostensibly, I was there to learn more about community health and fitness schemes, but, as always, our conversation became about much more than that.

Click to read more ...