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.

6. Let's get on in our communities


In its interim report, the RSE identified that a key motivator of digital participation is belonging to a community whose members are predominantly online. If, the report argues, the main method of communication of an individual's peers is digital, the more likely that person will be to decide to get online.

Research by the Carnegie UK Trust [5] found that the motivations that inspire people to go online are likely to be as varied and as personal as the barriers that can prevent them from doing so. It is therefore essential that our partnership delivers more than a "one size fits all" approach. The Trust's subsequent report, Making Digital Real [6] did however show that a desire to find information or content of personal interest and to communicate with others are two of the key drivers which can encourage people to go online. Its report was able to cite a number of examples where finding these hooks played a significant role in stimulating digital participation and we are determined to learn from and replicate such experiences in Scotland.


Communities may be geographical in the classic sense of a local community in which people live and work in close proximity, or they may be communities of interest, in which people are brought together by common skills, passions or heritage. We believe that both forms of community provide powerful opportunities for promoting digital inclusion in the way described by the RSE.

The digital revolution offers new opportunities for people to participate more fully in how decisions are made and to be active participants in subjects that are of interest to them. The internet can extend how people pursue their interests, from tracking the progress of a football team to making a real contribution to major projects. Tapping into existing enthusiasms and highlighting how being online can add to the experience may motivate people to go online for the first time or to improve existing skills by using different applications and programme. Citizen science, for example, allows enthusiasts to contribute to large scale projects, mapping stars and meteors, plotting the migration of birds or recording the weather. Shared activities, competitions and incentives can increase the motivation to participants whilst new wearable technologies enhance mobility and provide a focal point for discussions with family and friends.

Our unique, national partnership provides an opportunity to deliver digital access and training support within local community settings. This will see a physical network of centres established in a range of existing, familiar and easily accessible community hubs including in community centres, libraries, village halls or housing associations and a virtual network of digital professionals. As a minimum, these Digital Scotland branded hubs will offer access to the online training materials described in the previous chapter. We also hope that they will be well placed to offer the more advanced course that we are committed to developing and, in some cases, provide a community setting in which service users, services providers and Scotland's online content developer community can get together to work on ideas to help meet the challenge of delivering services to our communities. To support the widening of public access to the internet, we are committed to working with local authorities to support wifi access in local libraries.

Our national partnership-led delivery network benefits from the significant role played by local authorities in developing local strategies and providing strong leadership on digital participation in their areas. Local authorities are able to facilitate cooperation between key local partners in the public, private and voluntary sector to identify best practice, share information and work collectively to improve digital inclusion. Community Broadband Scotland ( CBS) is also playing an important role as a driver for digital participation in remote rural areas. The team of development advisers based throughout rural Scotland work with communities on the ground to help them get access to better broadband and to raise awareness of the benefits of being online.

Case Study: Digital Glasgow

Glasgow City Council has developed its Digital Glasgow Roadmap to support digitally excluded groups across the city. Citizen participation is a priority for Digital Glasgow and is an excellent example of a local authority approach that can be adapted and replicated in other parts of Scotland.

Digital Glasgow ( unites Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life, Wheatley Group, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Jobs & Business Glasgow in partnership to support the development of Glasgow as a digital city by 2017.

Citizen participation is a key workstream for Digital Glasgow which is supported by a wide range of Glasgow partners including the Digital Glasgow Board partners and Glasgow Kelvin College, Glasgow & West of Scotland Housing Forum, Princes Trust, Scottish Government, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Citizens Advice Direct, Citizens Online, and the Department of Work and Pensions.

The group particularly works with Glasgow's most disconnected citizens - especially the disabled, the elderly, the unemployed and people living in social housing.

Digital aspirations for all citizens of Glasgow are:

  • to be confident to go online in a way, at a time and in a place they choose
  • to be able to safely communicate, browse and transact online
  • to be able to participate as citizens online
  • to be able to influence decisions in their communities online

The group is making good progress and are working to deliver:

  • a digital access map where citizens can access computers and/ or gain skill
  • developing a digital skills standard to assure people seeking digital skills that their learning will achieve a common standard which is SQA accredited
  • action plans for digitally unconnected groups to identify and share best practice to increase participation in these groups
  • encourage Digital Glasgow partners and major employers in the city to embrace the principles of the Digital Scotland Participation Charter.

Training provision

A Scotland-wide database of local training provision and support to get on line will be made available on the website. This will be championed and maintained by SCVO in partnership with digital community hubs including libraries, social housing providers, Further Education Colleges, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. We are also in discussion with other partners, including Citizens Advice Scotland to explore opportunities for them to signpost people to these training opportunities as part of the service they provide for their customers.

The report, " Get connected, get online: Using embedded outreach to bridge the digital divide" (Digital Outreach Limited 2011) [7] showed that when a training session was led by someone who was known by the group of trainees, 77% of those groups responded positively, compared to only 17% of groups where the session was led by a person who they did not know. The Scottish Government and the Digital Participation team at SCVO will build upon existing systems for attracting and placing volunteers in the offline world, to create a virtual network of trusted individuals with the skills and trust required to encourage the development of digital skills in currently excluded sectors of the population. This network will come from three key sources:

  • people working within the voluntary sector who have the skills and can be freed up to promote digital inclusion as part of their more general engagement with individuals and groups.
  • staff working in organisations that have signed the Digital Participation Charter and who regard direct support of this nature as the best way of playing their part in the national movement for change
  • public sector employees such as library staff, Community Educators, and other service providers who have direct contact with people who are offline, such as GPs, social workers, housing officers, health visitors and community development officers , who have a specialism in community learning or digital technology

The Digital Participation team will facilitate this process still further, by partnering companies and third sector organisations to provide training and support for volunteers wishing to improve their skills and become better able to train others in basic digital skills. Immediate priority will be given to those groups and individuals that are best placed to support looked after young people, the elderly and benefits recipients, but in time, we expect that this virtual network of support will be capable of reaching all digitally excluded people in our country.

Whilst some people voice fears that digital technology in the form of video games and social media take people away from community interaction, we believe that it actually offers huge opportunities to reinvigorate such communities. The development of local digital TV, support for local citizen journalism and new forms of engagement with national and local democratic life are all examples of how digital opens up new possibilities to meet new people and add value to life of a local community. These initiatives cannot be imposed from the top down, so Scottish Government will invite suitable proposals for a small number of pilot projects that offer the potential for community reinvigoration and help promote the lessons learned across the country.

Whilst communities of interest can often be more difficult to reach, we plan to encourage such communities to make the most of both the physical and virtual network of access and training opportunities described above. Through one to one support and training we aim to encourage offline communities to get online by both demonstrating the range of relevant information and material that is already available online and encouraging them to digitise their information and content and develop their community through the use of social media. A Challenge Fund aimed at social clubs, sports clubs and arts / cultural organisations will enable them to digitise content, build digital networks or improve the digital skills of their members in order that they might continue to thrive in the digital world.


In order to ensure world class levels of digital participation we will:

  • establish a network of Digital Scotland training hubs across the country to promote basic digital skills
  • establish a virtual network of trainers and mentors to support skills development in our communities
  • support the delivery of free wireless connectivity across the public library network
  • launch a dynamic database on the Digital Scotland website of digital training opportunities through-out Scotland
  • support a series of pilot projects that reinvigorate communities for the digital age
  • establish a challenge fund to help communities of interest to develop and thrive in the online environment
  • support local authorities to lead the drive to digital participation in their area .
  • provide opportunities for Scotland's online content developer community to work together in addressing community issues
  • work with partners to promote the availability of the above as part of the Let's Get On Campaign


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