Scottish Enterprise is primarily concerned with supporting sustainable economic growth through businesses, so why are we signing-up to the Digital Participation Charter?

There isn’t one over-riding driver; rather there are many contributing reasons for our interest.

In common with many Scottish agencies, we take our policy lead from Scotland’s Digital Future. Within this, SE is deeply involved in three of the four strands, transforming our own publicservices, stimulating the digital economy, and connectivity, where we help stimulate business demand for and uptake of mobile and ultrafast broadband services.

In taking a rounded look at our contribution to the overall strategy, it became clear to me that none of this will be the best it can be for our businesses without the success of the remaining strand: the digital participationof organisations and individuals.

Scotland needs its businesses to be able to use digital technologies knowledgeably and safely in order to maximise market intelligence, productivity and sales.

As these technologies become more pervasive, businesses will need their actual or potential customers to have similar digital capabilities.

Equally, the future workforce for business will need them as well.

What I’ve just described is a business-based rationale for supporting universal digital participation: a rationale which is completely aligned with the social rationale for the same objective. For SE – what’s not to like?

But what can we bring?

Well the first contribution is simply to continue to increase the digital participation rate amongst businesses. We do this through facilitating the multi-agency Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership. That’s core work for us.

A second contribution, ensuring our own workforce in Scotland is digitally capable, is also an unsurprising objective for SE.

Beyond those mainstream contributions, I’ve been thinking about the spirit of the Charter, and some softer angles. Firstly, just signing-up might stimulate our sister agencies who haven’t yet done so to also consider signing-up. Secondly, it might allow us to promote digital participation to our client businesses and their workforces from a position of greater confidence; digital participation isn’t something we just preach to others – we’ve committed to it.

Furthermore, and stating the obvious, SE is staffed by citizens, each of whom lives in a community beyond SE. Part of my role (with the help of the Let’s Get On resource pack) will be to encourage our staff to help friends, relatives and neighbours to get online safely where they can, and to let me know how they get on.

Finally, but perhaps not right now, I’d like to explore how procurement can be used to promote digital participation within our supplier companies. I suppose I’m seeing some parallels with the early days of gender equality and environmental sustainability, whereby suppliers were first encouraged and then compelled to make statements demonstrating their practical alignment with such policies as part of the pre-procurement qualification process. I haven’t heard anyone else discuss this in the context of digital participation (apologies if I’ve missed it) and would like to explore whether this idea has wings or not. I’m hoping new critical friends amongst the Charter signatories will shape my thinking here

In fact we’re looking forward to learning generally from experience of other Charter signatories as to how we can be smarter in promoting participation. On a personal note; through leading our approach to digital participation I’m already enjoying having conversations different from those which usually dominate my day job. I’m especially grateful to Chris, Sally and Mary at SCVO and Tommy at ScotlandIS for the encouragement to join in and their help in organising my thoughts. We may be a little late to the party, but we got there.