A new round of funding designed to help people get online and develop essential digital skills was launched today (30 January) by Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy Kate Forbes at Big Hearts Community Trust in Edinburgh.

Over the past five years, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations’ (SCVO) Digital Participation Charter Fund – supported by the Scottish Government and BT – has provided funding to over 160 projects across Scotland, with over 16,000 people being supported to increase their essential digital skills.

The fund provides small grants of up to £10,000 to help a range of organisations tackle poverty, social isolation and other forms of inequality in society through embedding essential digital skills development work in day-to-day activity with their service users.  

In 2018, Round 6 of the Charter Fund made awards of over £220,000 to 26 organisations from across the country, which work either to support working age people to increase financial capability, employment and other economic outcomes; or support older and disabled people to reduce social isolation and loneliness.

Now SCVO has launched another round of the Charter Fund, in an attempt to reach and support even more people in need.

Launching the fund, Kate Forbes, Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy said: “The Scottish Government wants as many people as possible to benefit from getting online. The Digital Participation Charter Fund plays a huge part in tackling digital exclusion and helping people to access the support they need. The funding I have announced today will continue the valuable work to reduce social isolation and loneliness and help people access employment opportunities. My thanks to SCVO and all of the organisations involved for their continued commitment to increasing digital participation.”

Craig Wilson, General Manager at Big Hearts said: Round 6 of the Charter Fund has opened new opportunities for our charity to support various groups affected by social isolation. Our Go Digital volunteers help older football fans go over the first step of using digital mediums, which equip them progressively with the skills and confidence to stay connected and become more engaged within their local community.”

Various organisations benefitted from the previous round of the Charter Fund. Community Food Initiatives North East, which is working to develop the essential digital skills of their volunteers, staff, and food bank beneficiaries.

Atrium Homes have also recruited a part time Digital Assistant and are currently surveying the digital skills needs of their tenants before developing and embedding regular digital skills drop in sessions, supported by newly trained digital champions, as part of their customer service support.

Deafblind Scotland are using their Charter Fund support to equip deafblind people with the digital skills and confidence to maximise the use of assistive technology to support them in their everyday information needs.

Scotland is already a ‘digital nation’, with eight in ten households connected to the internet, and six in ten people using smartphones. However research conducted by SCVO’s Digital Team recently, in conjunction with the University of the West of Scotland, showed that around 21 per cent of adults in Scotland still don’t have basic digital skills.

David McNeill, Director of Digital at SCVO, said: “People who aren’t online and lack basic digital skills are more likely to face multiple forms of social exclusion. It is crucial that we ensure no one is left behind in our increasingly digital world. The Charter Fund has enabled community projects to help more than 16,000 people who need support to access technology and the internet, to reduce the digital divide in Scotland. We look forward to reaching more people through Round 7 and I would encourage third sector organisations to apply.”

Find out more and apply now!