Those who most rely on public services – such as people on low incomes or pensioners – are among the least likely to be able to access information online, a report for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) found.
The research found that while eight out of 10 adults use the internet on a daily basis, 21 per cent lack the confidence required to browse websites or complete online forms required for job applications and benefit claims.
David McNeill, digital director at SCVO, said ambitions to deliver more public services online, particularly welfare and benefits, risked further disenfranchising people who already face multiple forms of social exclusion.
“We are calling on organisations across the public, private and third sectors working with older people, disabled people and those on low incomes to sign a digital participation charter and join a national movement to tackle digital exclusion,” he added.
Edinburgh-based charity People Know How received £10,000 from the Charter Fund in April 2017, which is now being used to help hundreds of people of all ages gain digital skills and the confidence to use technology to help improve their lives.
Founder Glenn Liddall said: “We have helped people with things like applying for college, housing applications and applying for Disability Living Allowance. It is absolutely crucial that these people are not forgotten about – digital skills are directly linked to poverty. If people can’t use basic computer skills and the internet then they are already missing out on a whole raft of things.”
A survey by the Bank of Scotland consumer digital index in July found 22 per cent of Scots lack digital skills, one per cent higher than the UK average.
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Getting more people online in Scotland returns a range of social, cultural and economic benefits and is crucial to our future growth and success. We are working with several organisations, including SCVO, to improve digital participation across Scotland’s communities and ensure digital technology is not allowed to reinforce social and economic inequalities.”