Advice charity warns of growing digital divide

Laptop hands

Many people still have no online access despite increasing reliance on e-technology  

27th May 2016 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

A leading advice charity has revealed 33% of its clients never or very rarely use the internet.

Citizens Advice Scotland’s report Bridging the Digital Divide suggests that governments, local authorities and other agencies should be challenged to give people the means, skills and confidence to get online.

Over half of CAB clients say they are unable to apply for benefits or jobs without assistance. These trends can be linked to the areas of greatest poverty.

This comes in spite of the UK government saying the vast majority of job applications and benefit claims should be made online by 2017.

CAS policy officer Patrick Hogan said: “Those of us who use the internet every day know it is a fantastic tool, which opens up a whole new world of choice and possibilities. But for many that world is closed off. It's something that they see other people do, but they lack the facilities, the skills or the confidence to get online themselves.

“While some progress has been made, the unfortunate fact is that one in three Scottish CAB clients still find themselves excluded from using computers or the internet."

The charity says lack of access to the internet doesn’t just limit people’s experience of life but  stops them accessing vital services. 

Our report is a wake-up call to both governments, and to local authorities, charities and other agencies.

The UK government’s ‘digital by default’ strategy aims to force people to access public services online. For example, it has a target that 80% of all benefit claims should be made online by 2017 and Jobcentres are requiring that some people apply for jobs online – or risk losing their Jobseekers Allowance (JSA).

Hogan added: “Our report today is a wake-up call to both governments, and to local authorities, charities and other agencies.

"People who are not using the internet are not going to suddenly start without a lot of encouragement and support. Vulnerable people should not have their benefits with-held or their JSA sanctioned because they are unable to use a technology that is unfamiliar to them – and this is happening at the moment.

“There is a digital divide in our society. On one side are those of us who use the internet every day and think nothing of it, and on the other side those – many of them elderly, disabled or from poorer backgrounds – who are excluded from that world and left behind. We need to bridge that digital divide.”

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