One in five adults do not have basic digital skills

Digital web

Those on low income, with disabilities or who are older are least likely to be able to access vital information online

22nd August 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

One in five adults in Scotland do not possess basic digital skills, research published this week has shown.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has been leading a study on digital exclusion, working with the University of the West of Scotland.

A key finding was that 21% of adults lack basic digital skills.

The research also found eight out of ten people use the internet on a daily basis and that those who are most in need of support from public services – including people on low incomes, the disabled and older people – are amongst the least likely to be able to access information and opportunities online.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “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.”

SCVO’s digital team has been leading a cross-sector response to digital exclusion through Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter – which 400 organisations have signed up to - and has provided over £1 million of funding to local projects to tackle digital exclusion, with 15,000 people gaining basic digital skills.

David McNeill, digital director for SCVO, said: “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 findings have also been backed by Citizens Advice Scotland. Spokesman Mark Patterson said: "CAB advisers across Scotland have been telling us for years that many of those who need public services have difficulty accessing that support digitally. We believe that lack of access to facilities remains a problem, but there is no doubt that lack of skills and low confidence are also significant barriers."

People Know How, an Edinburgh based charity who use volunteers to connect with people from a variety of backgrounds, received £10,000 from the charter fund in April. The funding is being used to help hundreds of people in the city gain digital skills and the confidence to use technology to help improve their lives through the organisation’s Re:Connect project.

“The way that we have approached it and developed it is that we provide digital drop-ins at other organisations,” said founder Glenn Liddall.

“Often it is not about technology, but having a supportive environment and showing people things that are considered to be taken for granted, such as copying text from an article. We have helped people with things like applying for college, housing applications and applying for Disability Living Allowance.”

Derek Young, senior policy officer at Age Scotland, said: "While some are using digital technology, many older people are reluctant to get involved now because they have little interest, see few benefits for themselves, or are worried about the risks of being financially exploited or having personal information taken, more so because they may not understand the technology and how to use it savvily."

People Know How have been working with a range of organisations such as Social Bite and the Ripple Project, and are planning to link with local foodbanks.

Regular issues that have been encountered include people being convinced that they might break technology if they use it in the wrong way, family members of friends not having the patience to help them learn and concerns about giving sensitive information away on the internet.

“It is absolutely crucial that these people are not forgotten about,” Glenn added. “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.”