This morning we are pleased to publish the interim report of our inquiry into spreading the benefits of digital participation in Scotland. This report sets out the findings of our evidence-gathering activities across Scotland and outlines our emerging recommendations on the actions that the Scottish Government, local authorities and private and voluntary sector partners must take to avoid a growing digital divide. We now welcome feedback on the report by 8 February 2014.
We call on the Scottish Government to recognise an undeniable right to digital inclusion and to assume overall accountability for ensuring that it is available and accessible to everyone in Scotland. We urge the Scottish Government to set its ambition for digital inclusion high: in Iceland, Sweden and Norway broadband connectivity and use are above 90%, Scotland, where the figure is currently around 71%, should aspire to join this group.
Professor Michael Fourman, Chair of the Inquiry, said “At present some 1.3 million people in Scotland are either not online or lack basic digital literacy skills. Many of Scotland’s 113,000 small and micro-businesses are not online or do not make full use of digital tools. As the digital revolution continues, those who do not participate will be increasingly excluded from society and the economy. Digital exclusion is strongly linked to other forms of deprivation and risks deepening existing social divides.”
The report identifies three fundamental factors for digital inclusion and makes recommendations on how they can be addressed:
- Affordable access, both through having the right digital infrastructure in place across Scotland and through finding new ways for people to get an affordable connection, for example through housing associations;
- Motivating people and businesses to get online, focusing on the community level – people will be more interested in participating if their friends, family, others who share their interests or, for businesses, their customers, are online; and
- Equipping people with the skills they need to use digital technologies safely, confidently and creatively. In a digital society this may range from digital literacy skills to wider ICT awareness to fundamental computer science.
In the report we also identify that the digital society brings new responsibilities, for government and others, in broader issues such as privacy, security and trust, fit-for-purpose legislation and rights and responsibilities. We will return to some of these issues in our final report.
We welcome suggestions and comments on our interim conclusions and recommendations and on the wider responsibilities of government to respect and protect the foundations of our digital society. These contributions will inform our final report which will be published in Spring 2014. All comments should be submitted by 8 February, preferably earlier.
Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Post to Digital Inquiry Committee, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, 22 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PQ.