PEPping up digital inclusion

Posted on 25/04/2014 by


Digital participation to tackle inequality and boost online access


A new strategy outlining how digital technology can be used to tackle inequalities and benefit communities across the country was launched by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop at PEP in West Pilton Park yesterday afternoon. 

The National Digital Participation Framework for Local Action maps out how helping people to get online and become confident users of the internet can open up new possibilities in healthcare, education and economic development. It also details how anyone can access support and training on digital skills at home, at work and in communities.

The strategy was launched as Ms Hyslop visited Pilton Equalities Project (PEP), where she met staff, volunteers and members of the local community. PEP provides a range of services for older and other vulnerable adults in North Edinburgh, including computer classes, which encourage independence and reduce isolation.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “Digital technology is transforming our society and changing the way we live – how we buy goods and services, how we build and maintain friendships and how we communicate with people and organisations in our local communities and across the world.

“The Scottish Government is determined Scotland is seen as a world-leading digital nation by 2020. We want everyone to be able to reap the social, cultural and economic benefits the internet can bring.

“While good progress is being made with the delivery of digital infrastructure, more needs to be done to enable people to become active digital citizens and share in the benefits the internet can bring.

“The Pilton Equalities Partnership is an excellent example of an organisation that supports people who are digitally excluded. The Scottish Government, through our Digital Participation Strategy, intends to support similar organisations who wish to make a positive contribution to increasing digital participation.”

Jean Gallagher, who attends computer classes at PEP, said: “I was delighted when a friend advised me that there was a place nearby that had a computer class for the elderly and, although I was a bit apprehensive, I decided that If I was to understand about the technology of today’s world I had to take the plunge.

“As a complete novice seven years ago, not even knowing how to turn on a computer, I can now do most of my shopping online, I do the family banking online, keep in touch with friends and family abroad via Skype and those nearer hand via social networking.

“I feel there is no way that at 81 years old would I be able to keep up with the modern way of living if it had not been for the staff at the PEP centre. I owe my new way of life to them and will be eternally grateful.”

Chris Yiu, Director of Digital Participation at SCVO said: “Everybody should have an opportunity to benefit from the internet, regardless of background or circumstances. Three in ten people in Scotland still lack the basic skills needed to get things done online. If we are serious about being a world-leading digital nation then the time has come to close this divide.

“SCVO welcomes the publication of the Digital Participation Strategy, and is delighted to play a leading role in this important agenda. By working across the public, private and third sectors to coordinate and scale up digital participation projects, together we will make a real and lasting difference to people and communities across Scotland.”

PEP manager Helen Tait said: “PEP provide the facilities, training and on-going digital support to enable older and less able people within our community to take advantage of the social and economic benefits of digital technology. Much of the focus is directed to understanding and using general web-browsing, email, social media, online shopping, and public services. It also creates the opportunity to increase socialisation through peer support. We also ensure that users are aware of, and know how to handle, the security issues that associate with online services.”