In today’s digital age, we now expect all aspects of modern life to be at our fingertips – internet connectivity being one of them, and that people are connected via their own devices, whether a laptop, smartphone or tablet. We also might presume that nearly everyone has the basic skills to navigate their way around this digital world. However, whilst basic skills are high, Scotland’s beautiful but equally fragmented landscape has made it the most digitally excluded region in the UK.
Currently, 18% of adults in the Highlands and Western Isles have never been online and 69% of Scottish local authority employees surveyed by Civica for our latest report ‘Dialling Scotland in For Digital Success’ believe that digital exclusion is higher in Scotland than any other region – with 44% claiming that poor connectivity is the biggest barrier for the region to achieve its 2020 digital vision. Scottish authorities face a challenge to ensure all their citizens are included and connected.
But it’s not just connectivity issues holding Scotland back. A recent government report identified that 15% of working age adults in Scotland are currently living in relative poverty, making online access an unaffordable luxury.
Therefore, when we look at Scotland and consider the best solutions for getting the nation online, it’s not as simple as introducing better broadband infrastructure; rather, it’s become a social challenge. Our report highlighted several factors which affect digital inclusion, with 31% of local government workers in Scotland stating that low income and affordability to get online is the main reason behind digital exclusion; whilst also claiming that other factors relating to age and education and digital skills also have a huge impact.
The journey to eradicate digital exclusion will be complex, but it’s not unachievable. When combining our report, we worked with key digital leaders to create the following steps to digital success in Scotland; scale up digital inclusion programmes in rural areas; build engaging omni-channel digital services; invest in digital infrastructure; educate and train citizens in the use of digital services; and identify who’s not using the internet and why?
So if we are to ensure all citizens are included in Scotland’s digital future, it’s vital that Scotland’s leaders now embrace the changes needed to develop and drive digital transformation right across the country.