More than 25,000 devices delivered by Connecting Scotland
There is no doubt one of the biggest challenges of living through this pandemic has been losing our ability to meet up with friends and family.
We’ve had to find other ways to connect with each other, rather than in person – and being able to do so online has been vital.
So with COVID-19 highlighting the digital divide, we introduced our Connecting Scotland programme to provide devices and support. It is one of the most comprehensive national programmes aimed at tackling digital exclusion in the world, unmatched elsewhere in the UK.
Today is World Day of Social Justice, and the theme is A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy – which refers to digital exclusion as a major issue in the current crisis.
So I’m delighted that we’ve already delivered more than 25,000 devices including Chromebooks, iPads, and tablets, to organisations which are ensuring they get into households where they are most needed. This is the start of a programme that aims to deliver around 55,000 devices by the end of this year.
We’ve focused on digitally excluded low income households with people at clinically increased risk from coronavirus, with children or young care leavers, and socially isolated older or disabled people.
Backed by over £45 million of funding we are investing in getting people online and connected, as we know that supports us all to flourish in a number of ways – either socially, through learning online or helping us find jobs or access services.
Just over 19,000 devices were delivered during 2020, and a further 6,000 in January and February. Organisations are contracted to get them into households who need them within 28 days of receiving the devices.
But we’re not just dropping them into people’s hands. The programme provides training and support, as well as data to get and stay connected – with 24 months connection for all. The groups we work with train staff or volunteers to act as “Digital Champions” to help people get online. And recipients can access extra help through the Connecting Scotland website or via a telephone helpline.
Robert Donnelly, aged 61, from North Ayrshire, is one of those Digital Champions.
He said: “One neighbour had a keen interest in baking so I helped to research various recipe sites – and highlighted bannocks, which they had never tried to make. Three days later I had a freshly ground bannock delivered to my doorstep. With a bit of butter it was amazing!”
I’m grateful to everyone who has made Connecting Scotland a fantastic way of bringing about digital inclusion during this most difficult of times – whether it’s Digital Champions like Robert, local authorities, charities and voluntary groups who are helping deliver the programme, or Scotland’s digital industries who are supporting us.
People have let us know that they are using their devices for everything from job hunting to joining online fitness classes. This is vital to help people get through this pandemic, and for support as we come out of it.
As we emerge from the shadow of COVID-19, we’re bringing more people together and showing them new ways to stay connected.