Investment in digital inclusion exceeds £48 million.
Investment in the Connecting Scotland programme, to provide low-income households with digital devices and support, has now been increased to more than £48 million.
This includes £26.6 million for the third and next stage of the initiative, meaning a total of 60,000 households will be helped by the end of 2021.
This next stage, which starts shortly, will reach a further 23,000 households and also provide existing Connecting Scotland customers with an additional 12 months of unlimited data, extending support to 24 months.
Connecting Scotland was launched in response to the pandemic, to provide digital devices, data, training and support to get online to those who need it most. It has grown rapidly with additional funding agreed in the Programme for Government and through the support of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), local authorities and Third Sector organisations, who deliver and provide the support to their communities.
In less than a year, Connecting Scotland has now reached:
- 9,000 people at clinically high or extremely high risk from COVID-19
- 23,000 families with children or young care leavers
- 5,000 socially isolated older and disabled people
Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said:
“There is no doubt one of the biggest challenges of living through this pandemic has been losing our ability to meet our friends and family. We’ve had to find other ways to connect with each other, rather than in person – and being able to do so online has never been more important.
“Throughout this crisis, the internet has been keeping us connected, informed and entertained, with the ability to learn, work, shop and access health information and other public services from our homes.
“With COVID-19 highlighting the digital divide, we introduced Connecting Scotland to provide devices, data, skills training, and support to those who need it the most. It is one of the most comprehensive national programmes aimed at tackling digital exclusion in the world, unmatched elsewhere in the UK.
“I’m delighted that we’ve already delivered more than 35,000 devices including Chromebooks, iPads, and tablets to organisations which are ensuring they get into households where they are most needed. This is the start of a programme that aims to deliver around 60,000 devices by the end of this year.”
As we come out of Covid-19 restrictions and plan for recovery, there is a continuing need to tackle digital exclusion. Enabling more people to get online reduces the need for the most vulnerable to travel to access services, reduces risks of social isolation and reduces the risk of increasing inequality.
Connecting Scotland is working with groups which have staff or volunteers trained to act as “Digital Champions” and recipients can access extra help through the Connecting Scotland website or via a telephone helpline.
Charities and public services applying for devices through Connecting Scotland have had to prove how they assess people to qualify for a device, and this is overseen by local authorities and our partners at SCVO, who have co-ordinated distribution.