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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

The five challenges

Inclusive design

What's the problem?

The 2022 Lloyds Consumer Digital Index highlights that half a million people are ‘offline’ in the UK and 58% say it’s because they ‘think the internet is too complicated to use.’ 

So much literature on digital inclusion focuses on the individual who is digitally excluded with skills, devices and connectivity as the keys to unlocking the digital world.  What is often overlooked is the need for services to be designed and developed to make sure that they are easy to use and accessible to all.  

Someone who is digitally excluded needs to understand how being connected is of interest or benefit to them, as well as have a device that is suitable for the things that they want to do. They also need affordable and reliable connectivity so that they can connect to the internet, and the skills and confidence to do things for themselves.  

However, everything a person does online is facilitated through an app or a website, which has been designed by the providers of these goods or services. If these apps or websites are too complicated to use then the previous steps taken to include someone will be in vain. That individual has not realised the potential of the online world because barriers remain. Consequently, the benefits to the service provider have also not been realised.  

This also relates to a shift in power and responsibility. Traditional models of digital inclusion rely heavily on individual journeys to reach these platforms, despite the benefit being mutually inclusive to both the individual and the service. Those who provide digital services and platforms (primarily the private and public sectors) now need to assume their share of responsibility for the digital inclusion journey. This means that these services can play a role in helping individuals reach the other pillars of digital inclusion, alleviating some of the pressure on the voluntary sector.  

What does good look like?

Digital inclusion is recognised as everyone’s responsibility, and those providing a digital service play their role to make it easier for people to use them.

Anyone providing a digital service has a role to play in digital inclusion. This doesn’t mean that every service must contribute to all the pillars of digital inclusion, but they should all be considered in the design process. This can cover everything from a big tech company launching a new app, to a small community organisation starting a new online group. Within the design of these new services, and those that are already running, we need to think about how those that could be digitally excluded might be able to use them.  

We have developed a framework for helping organisations across all sectors to think about how they can embed digital inclusion and assume their share of this collective responsibility. Across four key areas, organisations should consider:  

  • Understanding: having appropriate knowledge about digital exclusion, including the different barriers and solutions, and knowing how to develop support that works. This includes understanding the needs of the people accessing digital services, their barriers, and how to begin developing solutions to support them. This extends to understanding the digital skills of the workforce.    
  • Approach: how organisations tackle digital exclusion. This would include having a clear business case or strategy, supported by an action plan. The approach should seek to include support to upskill the workforce, as well as having mechanisms in place to measure and review the impact. Any approach should locate digital as a choice, with other channels available.  
  • Resource: the financial, physical, and human assets that are made available to support their approach to digital inclusion work within the organisation or community. This can include in-kind or financial support, with a focus on supporting people to develop their digital skills, and a knowledge of other resources that can be used to provide support.    
  • Partnership and collaboration: the capacity and willingness of organisations to work together in a way that is meaningful and genuine. This is underpinned by actively engaging in internal and external partnerships, that collaboration with other agencies and services. Organisations share their learning and insights for the benefits of others.  

What needs to happen?

Action 16

Organisations providing digital services must assume responsibility for their part of the
digital inclusion journey, including:

  • Understanding the impact of the service for those who might be digitally excluded.
  • Taking a proactive approach to minimising any negative impact – whether
    providing straightforward access to a non-digital channel or resourcing individual
    support for those who are excluded.
  • Working in partnership with organisations that know and understand the people
    most likely to be affected.
Last modified on 12 December 2023
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