We need to do something about digital inclusion

 Beth Mukushi, Head of Support Services at SCVO
 16th Feb 2018

For many years I’ve spent the best part of my weekdays in-front of a computer screen- scanning emails, writing reports, Googling the answers to crosswords (don’t tell anyone).

I’ve just been lucky enough to have ten months off work on maternity leave. In that time I have spent more time walking in parks and chatting to strangers than ever before. I’ve also felt more digitally disconnected than usual, often going days without turning on a laptop. I have however still been pinging Whatsapps, snapping Instagrams and Googling advice on crying babies and sleepless nights.

And, although I feel I have had a digital ‘detox’, I am fortunate that this was my choice – when I needed to apply for child benefit I was able to go onto Gov.uk and fill out the necessary forms.

We know that this choice is not available to everyone living in Scotland – research suggests 800,000 of us are not able to use digital services and technology. This means people can’t apply for benefits, compare energy suppliers or search for a new job.

A recent CAS Scotland report describes how their clients access and use digital services- it made for grim reading and is peppered with real life examples of the barriers people are facing:

Citizens Alert: A joiner fitted a new kitchen for a customer last year, but the customer refused to pay the invoice of almost £1,000 for the work done. The joiner wanted to go to Court to claim for their money. When they went to the Sheriff Court for some help and to pick up forms, they were told that all the information was available online. When the joiner explained that they did not have a computer, they were told they “must know someone with a computer that can help.'

So. We need to do something about this.

It is not enough to move services online and hope people will develop skills and gain access to technology. Charities and public services have a responsibility to support their clients to gain the skills that they need for our modern digital world.

SCVO have been working with amazing partners across the sector for several years to make a significant change through the:

We have been testing different approaches and learning about what works to help people step across the digital divide. We know that five key threads run through all successful interventions:

  • recognising that motivation to learn something new is unique to an individual
  • hooking people in through a personal interest
  • peer support
  • embedding all of this in a service currently being accessed
  • and getting an immediate practical application.

If you care about this issue and work with people who struggle with digital services and technology we would love to hear from you, and work with you. Come to see us at The Gathering for our event ‘Supporting an embedded model of digital inclusion’ at 10am to 11am on Thursday 22 February. Or if you can’t make it, get in touch: beth.murphy@scvo.scot