Opportunity/Challenge 4: Build digital services that are responsive to individuals and address inequality of access to digital participation
What does the evidence tell us?
- There are two aspects to inequality in digital access: inequality of digital skills and confidence, and inequality of digital resources.
- Households with lower incomes and households in Scotland's most deprived areas are less likely to have home internet access than higher income households and those in less deprived areas, although the gap has narrowed over time. Lack of internet access could impact on social, educational, and labour market outcomes for these groups.
- Rural households, particularly in remote areas, are less likely to have access to faster "superfast" broadband, which offers a wide range of benefits.
- Older adults and disabled adults (i.e., those with a limiting long-term physical or mental health condition or illness) are less likely to use the internet than younger adults and non-disabled adults.
- Older adults are less likely to be confident in their ability to tell what websites to trust and to control their privacy settings online.
- Adults who use the internet for personal use are more likely to take online security measures if they are younger, or if they live in a less deprived area.
What are we doing to address this?
Access to digital connectivity opens up a range of potential benefits for all of society, including marginalised groups, with increased access to education, skills training, and financial benefits linked to savings accessible online. Through continuing the digital connectivity programme families will be provided with digital access linking them to a wide range of services essential to reducing household costs, increasing earnings, and improving wellbeing.
As set out in the RSR, the 2021 Digital Strategy for Scotland ("A Changing Nation: How Scotland Will Thrive In A Digital World") sets out the actions the Scottish Government will take on digital inclusion and connectivity, developing a strong digital economy, and enhancing the approach to delivering public services through investment in digital transformation.
As part of that, the Connecting Scotland programme is considering the sustainability of future phases together with a more in-depth study of the impact on equality. The Connecting Scotland programme will bring up to 300,000 households online over the parliamentary term. Initial findings note that people who have received devices and connectivity have felt less marginalised and more able to participate fully in a digital society. The evaluation phase is still being conducted on the Connecting Scotland programme: preliminary findings show that it has a positive impact on reducing digital exclusion.
There will continue to be investment in connectivity infrastructure and digital adoption across the economy, including continued investment in improved broadband and mobile coverage for residential and business premises.
In relation to digital infrastructure, we will continue to:
- Accelerate access to future-proofed broadband networks by building on the Reaching 100% (R100) programme contracts and the R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme . This provides access in remote, rural areas which disproportionately feature older and lower income households.
- Deploy future-proofed infrastructure to improve rural 4G mobile coverage, putting the right conditions in place to facilitate widespread deployment of 5G, and supporting the development and adoption of 5G use cases.
- Deliver the Scottish Government's Green Datacentres and Digital Connectivity Vision and Action Plan, stimulating new economic growth through attracting investment in international subsea fibre connections and sustainable Scottish data hosting facilities whilst building Scotland's profile as a competitive location for green, sustainable datacentres.
- Through our Full Fibre Charter and regular engagement, work with telecoms operators and key stakeholders to proactively investigate barriers to telecoms deployment.
We have launched a CivTech® Challenge to develop world-leading processes and tools to ensure everyone in Scotland can understand and have a say about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used to deliver public services. This will include a public register of trusted algorithms used in the Scottish public sector. We will also commission the design of an innovative mechanism to ensure civil society's full participation in the delivery of our AI strategy.
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