In today’s digital enabled economy, technology companies play a key role. Through the provision of services and technologies that have enabled innovative products and services to emerge that have been widely adopted. These products and services enable, for example, individuals to shop online or communicate with distant friends and family. Businesses, on the other hand, adopt such technologies to facilitate innovation or improve their operational efficiencies while governments utilise digital technologies to engage with their populations.
The digital economy is global in nature, with the products and services widely available. Many of the leading digital companies are platforms, which make their services widely available to anyone who can access them. They are often free to consumers, who ‘pay’ with data while businesses access them through innovative new business models like SaaS that are scaleable. This has created a dynamic global digital economy, and fuelled the dramatic rise in value of leading technology companies.
While the technologies and services are available to anyone who can access them, the companies providing them are based in a relatively small number of countries. Many of the leading technology companies that individuals use in their daily lives (e.g., Apple and Alphabet) are located in the United States, while specialist equipment design and manufacturing companies (e.g., Arm, ASML) are European. As companies have expanded globally and their services become more widely available, tensions have emerged. Although these tensions are numerous and multifaceted there are two key factors at play: whether the service (content) is legal in one country but not in another and how the data generated through the provision of a service is collected, analysed, used and stored.
This project will examine these tensions through the lens of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). There are considerable differences globally towards EDI issues, which are magnified by the global scale of the digital economy where companies from the US and Europe play a key role. Individuals could, for example, use Google to access content that is illegal in their own country but not in the United States. This raises questions around whether Google should tailor its services to reflect local laws and circumstances? Furthermore, the recent fine imposed on Grindr by the Norwegian Consumer Council highlights the sensitivity of data that can be collected by apps, and how this could detrimentally affect individuals depending on where they are located.
This project will critically review the EDI policies of leading technology companies, identifying the key challenges that they have faced within the company before focusing on how the tensions that have arisen as their services have become geographically widely available. Particular attention will be paid to how digital companies have reacted differently to the same tension(s), with it envisaged that prominent in this discussion will be cases relating to data, misinformation, gender and sexuality. Investigating such differences will enable the project to shed light on the relationship between EDI and the business model(s) that have been adopted.
This project is supervised by Professor Jason Whalley and Dr Steff Worst. For informal queries, please contact either supervisor [Email Address Removed] / [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions.
Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).
Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.
- Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
- Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
- Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.
Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
- Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
- have settled status, or
- have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
- have indefinite leave to remain or enter.
If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student. Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.
- Immigration Health Surcharge https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application
- If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on https://www.gov.uk/student-visa. It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
- Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-to-england-from-another-country-during-coronavirus-covid-19
- Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.
How to Apply
For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see
For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).
Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023
Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc