Access to the internet, and crucially, the skills to use it, is something that many of us in this digital age take for granted. It may come as a surprise to some then that approximately 800,000 adults across Scotland lack the Basic Digital Skills to thrive in our digital world.
So what do we mean when we say Basic Digital Skills? Using the definition developed by Go ON UK, Basic Digital Skills highlight 5 key areas:
Among other things these include a knowledge of internet safety, using email and social media, shopping online, filling out online applications and creating a text document. Essential skills necessary for people to flourish in an increasingly digital landscape, and especially in the workplace.
Since 2013 the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, supported by the Scottish Government, has been leading an ambitious programme to bridge the digital skills gap in Scotland. Through initiatives such as our Digital Participation Charter and Challenge Fund, we have been bringing organisations together to share resources to tackle digital exclusion, whilst supporting small projects on the ground who are already doing just that.
Since December 2014 we have administered two rounds of the Challenge Fund, providing support to digital inclusion projects in Scotland, with a third round of projects due to start soon. Prior to the three rounds we identified four priority groups of adults, identified as particularly digitally excluded, which we would like digital inclusion projects to support. These are older people, those with disabilities, those from ethnic minority groups and people seeking benefits (including those looking for employment).
To give you a flavour of some of the range of activity we have supported here are a couple of examples:
Flourish House is a charity based in Glasgow which aims to help those with mental health difficulties live purposeful lives. Since the beginning of May they have been running computer classes covering topics such as using Ebay, internet safety and how to use a smartphone. Flourish House have pioneered a varied and engaging approach to teaching digital skills, putting user needs at the centre.
The Centre for Nordic Studies have been working with elderly members of the Orkney and Shetland communities to teach them digital skills through the use of the app Fieldtrip GB. This allows people to record names and stories attached to places in their local community. By enabling people to capture their memories online, this innovative project has simultaneously been able to impart basic digital skills to participants.
Administering the Challenge Fund has thus far been a brilliant learning experience but if there is one thing we can definitively take away from rounds 1 & 2, it is the importance of innovation and variety when teaching digital skills to adults. Projects do best when they focus on what matters most to the individuals they are supporting, be this learning how to use a smartphone or tablet, or applying for benefits online. For those people who lack the confidence to get online, a ‘hook’ i.e. something which they are already passionate about, such as researching or recording local history, can encourage them to take those crucial first steps in the digital world.
Rebecca Stafford, Team Support Officer at SCVO, is responsible for supporting SCVO’s Digital team in the implementation of their digital participation programme in Scotland, and in particular the development of the Challenge Fund.