Connecting Scotland - evaluation: qualitative research - implementation and early impact

Findings of research with organisations who applied for digital devices, through the Connecting Scotland programme, to distribute to people that they support.

Chapter 1: Introduction and evaluation methodology

Description of the programme

When the Scottish Government published Scotland's Digital Future: A Strategy for Scotland in 2011, it looked at the digital opportunities and challenges facing Scotland at that time. A key set of proposed actions centred on promoting digital participation. This was cemented by the 2014 Digital Participation Charter and the publication of Digital Participation: A National Framework for Local Authorities. The Scottish Government partnered with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) to lead implementation, with a Digital Participation Team embedded into their organisation.

The updated strategy of 2017, Realising Scotland's full potential in a digital world: a digital strategy for Scotland, reaffirmed the government's commitment to digital equality with the aim that their actions 'enable everybody to share in the social, economic and democratic opportunities of digital'.

Huge in-roads have been made into making Scotland a connected nation, yet digital inequality remains. The most recent figures gathered for the Scottish Household Survey[1] in 2018 show that in 20% of the most deprived areas of Scotland only 82% of households have access to the internet; that only half of those over 60 in the most deprived areas use the internet; and that 21% of adults in social housing do not use the internet. COVID-19 and the subsequent restrictions placed on everyday life exacerbated these digital inequalities and brought the need to address them into sharper focus.

Connecting Scotland is the Scottish Government's crisis-response, delivered by SCVO, offering those that are digitally excluded an essential lifeline. The programme's aim is to enable people to stay connected with friends, family, information, and essential services. Organisations taking part in the programme can apply to provide their service users with a device (an iPad or Chromebook), connectivity, and support to set up and use these.

Purpose of the evaluation

A comprehensive evaluation across the programme aims to assess the effectiveness of Connecting Scotland. This evaluation consists of a welcome survey for new clients joining Connecting Scotland, followed by interviews and a follow-up survey after they have been engaged in the programme for a few months.

Overall, the evaluation examines whether the programme is reaching the right number and range of stakeholders, the outcomes and impact of the programme, lessons learned from the work so far and how it can be improved going forward.

As part of this research portfolio, Blake Stevenson was commissioned to specifically address:

The scoping, design and implementation of stakeholder research with organisations engaging with Connecting Scotland to support end users looking at programme development, organisation and delivery of this support.

Collation of insights and lessons learnt from stakeholders engaging with Connecting Scotland to support end users regarding the application process, engagement and barriers in respect to providing this support.

Evaluation methodology

Due to the high number of delivery partners participating in the Connecting Scotland programme, the methodology applied to this evaluation involved a mixed methods approach which combined a web-based survey of all delivery partners, deep dive interviews with a smaller sample of organisations and desk research to review evaluation documents submitted by participating organisations.

The survey was issued on 3rd June 2021 and was live until 30th June 2021.

It was designed and managed using SNAP surveys software, enabling the full breadth of experience across organisations to be captured. A total of 547 representatives of applicant organisations (both successful and unsuccessful) responded to the survey, which constitued a response rate of 82%. Respondents represented a wide range of organisations across Scotland which varied in size and type. Respondents to the survey reported having provided 16,411 participants with a WiFi connection; issued devices to 23,069 respondents; and provided support and advice to 26,344 participants. (Some participants will have received all three forms of support – these numbers do not relate to unique individual participant numbers).

Full details of the profile of respondents is contained within Appendix 2.

In addition, we conducted deep dive telephone and web-based interviews with 59 people across 52 unique organisations which enabled us to collect a rich picture of individual organisations' experiences. Interviewees were selected by us, independent of Scottish Government, based on agreed criteria including size and type of organisation, location of organisation, numbers of devices received through the programme, and type of client group. A full list of organisations interviewed is contained within Appendix 3.

Finally, we conducted nine interviews with SCVO staff who have been involved in steering and implementing the Connecting Scotland programme.

The remainder of the report is set out as follows:

  • Chapter 2 Programme Implementation
  • Chapter 3 Programme Impact
  • Chapter 4 Conclusions and recommendations



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