Over the past four years, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations’ (SCVO) Digital Participation Charter Fund – supported by the Scottish Government and BT – has provided funding to 150 projects across Scotland to get people online and develop basic digital skills.

Earlier this year, Round 6 of the Charter Fund made awards of over £220,000 to 26 organisations from across the country, which work either to support working age people to increase financial capability, employment and other economic outcomes; or support older and disabled people to reduce social isolation and loneliness.

As one of the key funders, BT has enabled several organisations to pursue projects that will help their local communities, including Rutherglen and Cambuslang CAB, Libertie Project, ROAR: connections for life, NKS Health, Community Food Initiatives North East, and Parkhead CAB.

Liz Turner, BT Scotland Head of Corporate Responsibility, said: “Digital Inclusion is a top priority for BT and we believe it’s vital that everyone can access the support they need to get online with confidence. The social and economic benefits the internet can bring are huge, whether that be looking for work, accessing information, services or the best deals online, or keeping in touch with family and friends. We’re pleased to support the Scottish Digital Participation Charter Fund.”

Sharon Hampson, Rutherglen and Cambuslang Citizens Advice Bureau Manager said: “This funding will allow us to run a project that will help to reach the most vulnerable and poorest clients in our community, ensuring clients know their basic rights to access welfare benefits. With most benefit applications being moved online and a large percentage of clients suffering a lack of digital skills, this project will help enormously.”

Liberty Bligh from the Libertie Project said: “The fund has helped us not only financially but also in connecting with other organisations to share ideas and best practice especially with innovative digital approaches to working in rural and remote areas. So far we’ve helped 22 students at a Freshers Fayre in Inverness explore digital solutions to saving money and avoiding getting into debt and 54 older people in Caol understand the benefits of getting online and how to stay safe from online scams and fraud.”

Grant Halliday, Digital Participation Coordinator at ROAR: Connections for life said “This funding will be vital in allowing us to reach older adults living with visual impairments, a group at particular risk of being side-lined in our increasingly digital society. We’re excited to show how smart speakers and digital assistants offer them a whole new way of interacting with technology and provides a gateway for getting online!”

Graeme Robbie, Development Worker at Community Food Initiatives North East said: “Many people from the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum will benefit from the SCVO Digital Participation funding secured by CFINE. Food bank beneficiaries, volunteers and others from key target groups will undertake digital training focussed on increasing skills, and work to embed digital at the heart of CFINE as an organisation will contribute significant benefits.”

Liz Willis, CEO of Parkhead Citizens Advice Bureau said: “We are excited about our new Digital Adviser, who will be helping our clients to be as independent as possible, and confident in accessing information online in a safe and affordable way. We know that many of our clients would be able to self- help themselves long-term with some types of enquiries if they know where and how to look for reliable and trusted information on issues such as benefits, employment rights and legal issues.”

Scotland is already a ‘digital nation’, with eight in ten households connected to the internet, and six in ten people using smartphones. However research conducted by SCVO’s Digital Team recently, in conjunction with the University of the West of Scotland, showed that around 21 per cent of adults in Scotland still don’t have basic digital skills.

SCVO’s Digital Director David McNeill said: “People who aren’t online and lack basic digital skills are more likely to face multiple forms of social exclusion. It is crucial that we ensure no one is left behind in our increasingly digital world. Our research has shown that approaches to overcoming digital exclusion must be embedded in wider strategies to tackle social exclusion. The Charter Fund has enabled community projects to help more than 15,000 people who need support to access technology and the internet, to reduce the digital divide in Scotland.”