Digital Participation: A National Framework for Local Action

A national framework that underpins local action to help individuals and businesses improve levels of digital participation.

2. The internet is for all of us

Digital participation opens up a broad range of opportunities for people, businesses and government at all levels to engage actively in shaping the future direction of society in a way that was not possible in an analogue world.

The internet is powering new and exciting forms of consumer power and citizen democracy. ePlanning Scotland provides an easy online method for the completion and submission of planning applications, notices of review, appeals and other consents required under planning legislation. Online petitions, including those encouraged by the success of the Scottish Parliament's e-petition system are influencing public policy, whilst social media continues to demonstrate its ability to shape both the political agenda and the decisions of many consumer facing enterprises. Across the world we see that the internet has the power to alter the very direction of a country. In our 24/7, interconnected world, few can doubt that the internet has the power to change lives.

For individuals, access to the internet brings new opportunities to meet others with similar interests and hobbies to learn, to find employment, to save money, to access and engage with health services and to keep in touch with family and friends. The advantages are increasing all the time as manufacturers develop machine-to-machine technologies that will increasingly enable people to control white goods, heating systems and other domestic appliances at a distance from a smart phone or other electronic device.

Health and social services are making good use of technology to support older people and those with long term conditions and disabilities at home. This improves quality of life and enables people to manage their conditions more effectively, allowing them to live at home for longer. The long held ambition of shifting the balance of care from hospitals to our communities is being realised through digital innovation.

The following case studies illustrate different uses of digital technology that help people manage their lives, interact with online services and enjoy cultural opportunities.

Case Study: Dundee Community Hub

In anticipation of the new demands on the library service to support communities because of welfare reform changes, the Dundee Opportunities Hub was established.

Based in Dundee Central Library, it has satellite services in community libraries across the city, delivered by a network of staff and trained volunteers, providing access to IT equipment, online resources and advice.

Library staff who were already working closely with local agencies and groups in raising digital awareness are now part of a team who will shape the experience of people using the service. A Volunteers Coordinator has been appointed for a fixed term 12 month contract, to ensure that the framework of volunteer and peer support is established successfully. The coordinator is recruiting, training and supporting a team of volunteers who will help deliver IT training for claimants and job seekers.

From July 2013 to December 2013 the Opportunities Project has assisted customers on 397 occasions to use IT equipment to job search or apply for welfare benefits. When surveyed,

  • 51% of customers reported increased confidence in using IT after accessing support from the project.
  • 49% of customers said their skills in using IT had increased after accessing support from the project.
  • 95% of customers stated the support they received from the volunteer was good or excellent.

Grant Ross, Volunteer Coordinator says, "When customers ask for support from a volunteer, the majority of enquires are about online job applications or completing a benefits application which often need to be submitted within a tight deadline. By having a team of volunteers on hand to provide support we are able to assist the customers in most cases at the time of the initial enquiry.

Customers can range from those who are confident using computers and who only need help with a specific website to those who are using a computer for the first time. The support offered by volunteers is provided on a one to one basis which means they can tailor the training to the needs of the individual customer. One of the main advantages of working with volunteers to deliver this is the wide range of experience they bring to the project. Many of the volunteers are job seekers themselves and have gained experience of using the online resources which they can share with customers."

Case Study: CoderDojo Scotland

CoderDojo is a volunteer led movement to deliver free not-for-profit coding clubs and regular sessions for young people between five and 17 years old. Since 2012, 57 CoderDojos have been run in 10 different geographical locations in Scotland. The emphasis is on creating a fun, sociable and welcoming space, where youngsters have the opportunity to learn how to code, develop websites, apps, programs, games and more.

Craig Steele, who runs CoderDojo in Scotland, explains that the young people "enjoy the session, not only because of the educational content but also because of the ambience and the camaraderie of learning together. In short, CoderDojos boost attendees' social skills and, in the long run, their employability."

Martin Goodfellow, one of the CoderDojo mentors, agrees "It's getting into their heads that they can be makers rather than consumers. However, dojos aren't just for future software developers. It's important that in a world that is growing more and more reliant on technology that people have some understanding of what they are using.

The dojos have also improved participant's broader skills. The young people have improved their communication and social skills with some people showing vast improvements. We are helping debunk the myth that programming is an anti-social task performed on your own in a dark room."

For one youngster, CoderDojo has not only inspired his future career aspirations, but also enabled life changing personal development.

Simon, 11, is autistic and his family have been trying to encourage any hint of an interest or hobby that might provide positive engagement and release his potential. This had been unsuccessful until he began attending his local CoderDojo.

Simon's positive reaction to the learning environment was immediately apparent. His mum explains, "it was an absolute breakthrough… He managed to concentrate the whole time, thanking the tutors for a great course as he left and was absolutely buzzing with it. Amazing!."

Since then, Simon has continued to attend each of his local CoderDojo sessions and thrive. His self-esteem has taken a great boost and he now wants to work in the IT sector in future. This, in turn, has given his whole family a boost: "Happiness, independence and employment are the three things we would wish for Simon's future." says his mum, "CoderDojo has had a contribution to each of these... CoderDojo is, quite literally giving him a future".

Case Study: Telehealth Video Conferencing

For one young girl and her family, video-conferencing has proved a life-changing technology.

Ten year old Meggie has Alagille Syndrome, a rare form of liver disease that affects one in 100,000 people. At seven and a half years old, she had a liver transplant which means she needs thrice-daily anti-rejection medication, as well as constant medical supervision.

The primary care which Meggie needs is in London. Meggie had eight years of making long trips for an appointment that often lasted only 10 minutes. Her view was clear: "I don't like it. It's very boring and it's very tiring and I don't like it as I'm staying away from my family". In addition to the stress of travelling, with no immunity and the dangers of picking up germs from others, keeping Meggie healthy whilst travelling was a complicated business.

However, things changed when her family became part of a telehealth project at their local hospital in Inverness. Modern day technology allowed them to have their appointments at the local hospital - which is just 30 minutes away from the family home - with a video link to London.

Meggie's mum Heather said "We sit with a doctor and a couple of nurses and the video is set up in front of us and the doctors from London are on the other side with a couple of their nurses and a couple of others from their team. Then the doctors will ask me questions. They may get the doctor who's sat with me, to examine Meggie and he can report over the screen what he's hearing. Having a doctor next to me provides peace of mind for me, so I know the check-up is exactly the same as they would have done themselves."

Meggie much preferred the video link "I think it's really fun because you don't have to travel". Removing the stress of long trips to distant hospitals made a big difference to Meggie. As her mum said
"The older she's got, the more negative hospitals have become to her so she knows she can put a bit of fun into it. She can see herself on the screen as well as talk to her doctors and know that she doesn't actually have to have an overnight stay. That's brilliant!"

Case Study: Telecare sensor

Telecare is enabling many older people to stay in their own home for longer. Anne is elderly, has dementia and lives alone. However, she is adamant that she wants to stay in her own home, and her family have agreed that they will do as much as they can to enable that to happen.

However, when Anne began to wander outside at night, her family faced a challenging time. On one occasion she ended up in a hospital because she was unable to say where she was from and it was a source of constant worry for them. As daughter Roberta put it "we were wondering whether we were hurtling towards full-time care."

Now a sensor has been installed at Anne's front door, programmed to raise the alert if she opens it in the evening. If Anne attempts to leave the house in the evening, the alert is sounded in a monitoring centre and staff there can communicate directly with her, without having to call her daughter. Roberta describes the telecare service as "a godsend". The staff at the monitoring centre have been able to build up a trusted relationship with Anne which means that they can dissuade her from leaving the house at inappropriate times and keep her safe in her home.

Roberta said "There is no doubt in my mind that my mother would not be able to stay in her own home if it wasn't for the Telecare support. I think, for me, it gives me the peace of mind that I am doing what she wants me to do. We will do anything we can to keep her in her own home because that is her wish."

Case Study: ArtHunter app

Arthunter is a free multi-platform mobile app produced for the National Galleries of Scotland and in use for arts venues across Scotland, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Orkney, Mauchline and Hawick. With over 3,300 downloads since it launched, ArtHunter allows audiences to experience and learn about art in a different way.

Visitors who have used the app are enjoying the experience. Pauline, a regular visitor to the galleries said "It's a really useful tool and will make a real difference to my future trips, as it'll encourage me to get to know different works from the ones I'm familiar with. Being able to get that added information about specific paintings is like having an expert alongside me when I visit."

The app works when the user enters a specific code into their smartphone or tablet which then unlocks extra multimedia content regarding the artwork. In addition to the added content, there is also a gaming element which has special appeal to a younger audience as they "capture" the various artworks and earn badges based on how many they see.

Michaela, a specialist in digital education said "The app does make you engage with the pieces in a 'differently' personal way: on a practical level, it's great not to strain your neck to read the caption on the wall (especially useful if the place is crowded). You can sit down, read the info, and also listen to the audio content, when available. I found the latter especially pleasant."

The app is appealing to older and younger audiences. Seven-year-old Erin said "It is great fun because you get to hunt things and when you enter the code you feel like a secret agent."

Tessa Quinn, Head of Digital at National Galleries of Scotland says "There is a real appetite for collaboration between technology partners and cultural organisations. We've learned a lot about audiences since we launched the app and will be developing it further to support programmes around Scotland."


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