If you pick up any newspaper today, you won’t fail to notice some type of feature or article about the latest technological innovation. We are now entering the era of the Internet of Things, where self-drive cars will take us to our 3D-printed houses with their remotely controlled heating and lighting systems and where we will watch the television on ultra HD screens.
If technology giant Cisco is correct in its predictions, by 2020 the number of individual devices connected to the Internet will have passed 50 billion. And yet set against this backdrop of an always on, always connected digital universe, nearly 33% of Scots households are currently missing out on the economic, social and cultural benefits that the internet brings, through lack of access, skills or general literacy, creating a digital divide – digital exclusion
The advantages offered by online access are well documented:
- Improved educational attainment
- Better job prospects and flexibility
- Access to public services
- Cheaper goods and products
- More choice and convenience
- Access to advice, information and knowledge
- Improved social communication and engagement
- Enhanced democratic and civil participation – as evidenced by the recent referendum
With every day that passes the gap between the being online and digital grows more quickly.
There are many reasons for digital exclusion but all of them usually centre on a combination of lack of access, cost and confidence/motivation.
If the current situation is allowed to continue unabated, Scotland’s well being will be seriously damaged in the future. Delivering formal training in formal establishments during normal working/school hours is not the answer.
Providing access to technology, access to experts, at times to suit the work/life balance will ensure every citizen has the opportunity to thrive. Allowing people to experiment and explore at their own pace, without the stigma of peer group judgement, in an environment which is conducive to inclusion, creativity and inspiration is key.
Simply put, digital engagement has to be nurtured and encouraged locally amongst communities.
The issue of digital exclusion and providing citizens with IT skills is not a new one, but addressing it through a multi-functional facility at the community’s heart is. This is a main objective for the Heroes Centre concept.