What works in tackling digital exclusion?

By David McNeill, Digital Director, SCVO

Twitter: @david_mcneill

New technology and the internet continues to radically change how we live, learn and work. With 8 out of 10 people using the internet on a daily basis, online services have become integral to most of our lives. However, these top level statistics hide a deeper digital divide.

Over the past year, growth in internet use has stalled in Scotland. This suggests that all those who want to be connected, can get a connection and can afford the cost, have done so. People that lack confidence or are unable to afford connectivity are being left behind.

Moreover, simply having access to the internet is no guarantee that people can use it to save money, apply for jobs and access the full range of social and economic benefits it can bring.

In Scotland, similar to the rest of the UK, one-in-five of adults still do not have basic digital skills that enable them to realise the benefits of our digital world. Over the past three years, with the support of the Scottish Government, BT and European Structural Funds, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has invested over £1m in 127 local projects across Scotland, enabling over 15,000 high-need individuals to get online and develop their skills.

Our review of these projects, together with the wider evidence base on tackling digital exclusion, highlights a number of common themes:

  • People that are most in need of support from public services – including people on low incomes, people with disabilities and older people – are amongst the least likely to be able to access information and opportunities online or have the digital skills to transact and apply for jobs.
  • Access to support to is least available where it’s needed most, and is more likely to be taken up by those who are already more proficient.
  • Ambitions to deliver more public services online, particularly welfare and benefits, risk further disenfranchising people who already face multiple forms of social exclusion.

Overall, the evidence tells us that approaches to overcoming digital exclusion must be embedded in a broader approach to tackling social exclusion.

I look forward to exploring this in more detail at the Digital Society 2017 event on 5th October.

You can download the full report and literature review on the Charter website.