Digital Participation Challenge Fund brings Scotland another step closer to making sure that everyone can get stuff done on the web
Over £200,000 has been awarded to 26 voluntary organisations in Scotland looking to help people learn the basic skills they need to get the most out of the internet.
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has awarded £195,000 in funding to be shared by 19 projects with BT Scotland contributing £25,000 to support seven additional projects.
It’s really exciting to know that we’re another step closer to making sure that everyone can get online
This is the third instalment of the Digital Participation Challenge Fund which in total will allocate £325,000 to community projects across Scotland.
Ben Glencross, development manager at Falkirk Football Community Foundation, which received two awards totalling just over £17,000, said the foundation will use its awards to help people learn new skills they require to get a job and to help older people make the most of technology.
“In the 21st century we sometimes take digital skills for granted, but not everyone has grown up with them and developed skills to apply for jobs online.
“The delivery of a digital skills course will help people to apply for positions that require digital skills to apply.
“These skills will enable them to draft application letters, CVs and apply for jobs online. This funding will also support our Digital Silver Bairns work to help Falkirk fans and others learn basic digital skills.”
Chris Yiu, director of digital participation at SCVO, said the latest funding would help bring Scotland nearer to ensuring all of its citizens would be able to get online.
"This is great news for all these projects which will now be able to make an even bigger difference to people’s lives right across Scotland,” he said.
“It’s really exciting to know that we’re another step closer to making sure that everyone can get online.”
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, added: “We share the Scottish Government’s view that everyone in our community should have the basic skills to participate fully in our digital world.
“Once individuals identify internet uses that will benefit them, their skills and confidence will quickly develop. Whether that’s shopping, keeping in touch with friends and family or learning something new, the opportunities are limitless. These projects will help ensure even more people across Scotland can start their digital journey.”
Digital participation is an issue for all sectors
The latest Digital Participation Challenge Fund awards announcement is the most recent of a number of initiatives undertaken to ensure the estimated one million people in Scotland who lack basic digital skills are reached.
On Monday SCVO brought a number of organisations from the private, public and voluntary sector together to discuss Scotland’s digital participation movement and network at the Celebrating Digital in Scotland event at Mansfield Traquair Centre in Edinburgh.
In conjunction with Digital Leaders, and sponsored by information technology consultancy Sopra Steria, around 70 people heard from Chris Yiu, Sarah Davidson, director general for communities at the Scottish Government and Rachel Neaman, chief executive of digital skills charity Go On UK.
Yiu informed guests that 150 organistions have now signed up to Scotland's Digital Participation Charter and that SCVO is working to create teams of digital champions at around 320 organisations around the country to teach people in their local communities digital skills.
He said: “Nearly one in five adults in Scotland don’t have the basic skills to get stuff done on the web.
“This is not a trivial issue we are talking about, this is quite a significant issue and if we are serious about social inclusion and serious about making sure everyone gets the chance to participate then our view is we have got to get stuck in and do something about it.
“Working with local groups, local organisations and leveraging relationships that people already have is the best way by far to make a breakthrough with the people we want to reach.”
Agreeing with Yiu over the importance of digital participation, Davidson said the Scottish Government was taking the issue seriously.
Digital participation, she said, ties in with the current Programme For Government, which focuses on boosting the economy, protecting and reforming public services and tackling the deep seated inequalities.
Davidson explained the government couldn’t solve the problem on its own and that partnership work with all sectors was important.
“It is an aspiration of the Scottish Government to develop and implement policy in a way that is distinctive and that is about producing,” she added.
“It’s about collaborating, it’s about being fundamentally person centered and you don’t need me to tell you how much digital has to offer to that.
“We do think that we can be leaders in this field if we push ourselves.”
Neaman, however, warned that there is no one size fits all solution as there is more than one reason for digital exclusion.
She said Scotland would never become a leading digital nation, which the government claims to want to be by 2020, until more girls and women are encouraged to build careers in the technology sector.
“Disturbingly the numbers of women in tech are actually going down,” she said.
“In the last year just 18% of students starting computer courses were women.
“Women make up just over half of the labour market and yet less than 13% of the stem workforce are female.
“Last year the government showed that a mixed gender workforce actively improves a company’s financial performance.
“The need for gender balance in the workforce is a businesses argument not a feminist one.”