Conducted in partnership with the University of the West of Scotland, the findings also reveal that 2 out of 10 Scots do not use the internet on a daily basis, and that those who lack digital confidence, or are unable to afford connectivity, are being left behind.
People who are in most need of support from public services, including those with disabilities and those on low incomes, are amongst the least likely to be able to access information and opportunities online. They lack the basic digital skills that enable them to realise the full range of social and economic benefits the internet can bring.
With the support of the Scottish government, SCVO has been leading a cross-sector examination of digital exclusion through Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter. Their Charter Fund has provided over £1million in funding to local projects aimed at tackling digital exclusion, directly supporting 15,000 high-need individuals to gain basic digital skills.
SCVO’s Digital Director David McNeill says: “Ambitions to deliver more public services online, particularly welfare and benefits, risk further disenfranchising people who already face multiple forms of social exclusion.
“We are calling on organisations across the public, private and third sectors working with older people, disabled people and those on low incomes to sign Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter and join a national movement to tackle digital exclusion.”
The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) works with adults who lack basic digital skills. The organisation has created a series of guides to help beginners get to grips with digital technology through the SQA Academy.
Hilary Weir, Digital Literacy and Enhancement Manager at SQA, said: “As a signatory of the Scottish Government’s Digital Participation Charter, SQA has made a commitment to upskilling members of our community who face significant barriers when it comes to getting the social and economic benefits of being online and engaging with digital technology. We wanted to support those learners who were keen to get a first foot on the ladder, and help them with that initial step in getting themselves online.
“We noticed there was a gap in the provision for people who had zero skills, so we developed a series of open digital guides that covered the absolute basics; literally turning a computer on, explaining what a mouse and keyboard does, and learning how to use a web-browser. SQA staff volunteered to deliver these courses to members of the Wheatley Group’s neighbourhood environmental team, and over time we got them confident enough to make online purchases, upload CVs to apply for jobs, and get in touch with friends and family through social media.”
“It’s important for organisations such as ourselves to fully support our whole community, not just those who are already engaged with digital technology. By making our guides freely available to everyone, we’re giving everyone the chance to develop their skills and get connected.”
Edinburgh-based charity People Know How received £10,000 from the Charter Fund in April 2017, which is now being used to help hundreds of people learn digital skills and the confidence to use technology to help improve their lives.
Founder Glenn Liddall said: “We have helped people with things like applying for college, housing applications and applying for Disability Living Allowance. It is absolutely crucial that these people are not forgotten about – digital skills are directly linked to poverty. If people can’t use basic computer skills and the internet then they are already missing out on a whole raft of things.”
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop added: “Getting more people online in Scotland returns a range of social, cultural and economic benefits and is crucial to our future growth and success. We are working with several organisations, including SCVO, to improve digital participation across Scotland’s communities and ensure digital technology is not allowed to reinforce social and economic inequalities.”