Digital Inclusion Briefing

By David McNeill on 29th Oct 2018

About SCVO Digital

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is the national body representing the third sector. SCVO Digital works to encourage Scotland’s Third Sector organisations to explore, adapt, invest and collaborate to become more digitally confident and to help the people they support to develop the essential digital skills needed for modern life. Full details of our work and the support we can offer to you and organisations in your area are available at:

Digital Inclusion: Accessibility, Skills & Affordability

In December 2017, the Scottish Government announced plans to invest £600 million to meet its commitment to deliver 100% superfast broadband coverage by 2021. We believe this is fundamental to reducing the rural inequality of access to high speed internet connections.

However, providing infrastructure alone is not enough to ensure people can access the social and economic benefits of the internet and new technology. The reported high levels of internet use [1] and prevalence of smartphones in 2018 hides a deeper digital divide.

Full digital inclusion is achieved where people have:

  • The confidence and motivation to go online;
  • An affordable internet connection at home and access to the right devices (not just a smartphone); and
  • The essential digital skills to enable them to realise the social and economic benefits.

The evidence clearly shows digital exclusion exacerbates existing deep routed inequalities and affordability is a key barrier to those in the poorest communities. Without internet access in the home, individuals have limited access to public services, channels for civic and democratic participation, knowledge and information tools, opportunities for social engagement, the labour market and learning. The lack of internet access also contributes to the poverty premium, as the cheapest goods and services are often only available online.

Additionally, while the majority of the population may be confident consumers, using social media and accessing entertainment online, many lack the full range of essential digital skills needed to complete tasks such as applying for jobs online, comparing prices and spotting scams. Recent research by Citizens Advice Scotland found that only 25% of clients could apply online for a benefit without problem.

Tackling Digital Exclusion

SCVO is working with the Scottish Government to deliver on its commitments to tackling digital exclusion set out in the 2017 Digital Strategy, “Realising Scotland's full potential in a digital world”.This includes:

  • Gaining commitments from 600 organisations across the public, private and third sectors to tackle digital exclusion through Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter;
  • Providing funding of £1.6m over the past four years to 169 local projects across Scotland to develop confidence online and essential digital skills with people most in need of support; and
  • Training Digital Champions in dozens of third sector organisations working to poverty and inequality by supporting people to develop essential digital skills.

This work has also been supported by the Big Lottery Fund, BT and European Structural Funds. However, we are not complacent and know more needs to be done to ensure all Scotland citizens are digitally confident, skilled and able to realise the potential social and economic opportunities of the internet safely.

Case Studies

Through Scotland's Digital Participation Charter, Changeworks (an organisation supporting in fuel poverty) has been helping people get online and give them the skills, confidence and know-how to get the best tariffs for their household bills. They have been supporting ‘Mrs P’ with some online learning sessions which gave her the confidence and skills to search for a cheaper fuel supplier and switch online. She saved £187 and checked to ensure she would qualify again for the Warm Home Discount with her new supplier and has taken a note to apply again online when applications open for this year.

Also supported by Scotland's Digital Participation Charter is Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association who have been assisting tenants to get online. Davie has learned how to add new apps to his phone and tablet and visited his mobile provider for advice on adding an SD card to his phone for extra storage. He has now become active on Facebook and connected with family and friends. He is also purchasing a wireless speaker to connect via Bluetooth to his tablet to listen to a playlist created on Spotify! Davie often says 'I learn something new every week'.

Future Action

To help tackle digital exclusion and to get more individuals and organisations benefiting from the full benefits of the digital revolution, we would like to see:

Organisations across the public, private and third sector to consider what practical actions they can take to tackle digital exclusion and make a commitment to Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter, which is managed by SCVO.

Internet providers to develop social tariffs that provide a basic home broadband service to those on low incomes. These tariffs must reflect what Ofcom considers to be acceptable for an average user.

  • Organisations to work with groups and communities who are likely to face digital exclusion to continue to provide free access to the internet and support the development of essential digital skills.
  • Internet providers and housing associations to work together to provide low cost internet access to tenants, building on the success of a number of pilot programmes in Scotland.

Further reading

To explore the issues raised in this briefing further, we would suggest reading:

SCVO (2017) - What works in tackling digital exclusion?
Our report published in August 2017 based on the findings of a review of 127 projects funded through the first three rounds of the Digital Participation Charter Fund, together with a literature review on digital exclusion carried out by the University of the West of Scotland. These reports give an insight into the current picture of digital exclusion across Scotland, as well as lessons learned on successful interventions.

SCVO (2018) – Briefing on affordable internet
Our briefing paper on the issues related to the affordability of home internet access for low income households, social tariffs and suggested actions.

Citizens Advice Scotland (2018) - Disconnected: Understanding Digital Inclusion and Improving Access
Recent research from clients which highlight that 1/3 of Citizens Advice Bureaux clients have difficulty or can’t use a computer, 31% of those seeking benefit advice rarely or never use the internet, 40% don’t have access to laptop or computer and only 25% can apply online for a benefit with no problems at all.

Carnegie UK Trust (2017) - #Notwithoutme
A report from a UK pilot programme which challenges the assumption that young people are ‘digital natives’ and have basic digital skills or access to learning opportunities.

A more comprehensive library of reading and resources is available on the website for Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter.

About us

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is the national body representing the third sector.There are over 45,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland involving around 138,000 paid staff and approximately 1.3 million volunteers. The sector manages an income of £4.9 billion.

SCVO works in partnership with the third sector in Scotland to advance our shared values and interests. We have over 1,600 members who range from individuals and grassroots groups, to Scotland-wide organisations and intermediary bodies.

As the only inclusive representative umbrella organisation for the sector SCVO:

  • has the largest Scotland-wide membership from the sector – our 1,600 members include charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations of all shapes and sizes
  • our governance and membership structures are democratic and accountable - with an elected board and policy committee from the sector, we are managed by the sector, for the sector
  • brings together organisations and networks connecting across the whole of Scotland
  • SCVO works to support people to take voluntary action to help themselves and others, and to bring about social change.



For more information on SCVO’s work to tackle digital exclusion in Scotland, please contact:

David McNeill
Digital Director
07825 372 049
Sally Dyson
Head of Digital Participation
07515 879 826  

[1] The 2017 Ofcom Communications Market report for Scotland shows 9 in 10 people use the internet, 77% of households have internet access and 57% have access to the internet through a mobile phone.