Digital Participation and Social Justice in Scotland

Digital inequalities are most likely to be experienced by those who are already more likely to be deprived according to many other measures. There is an urgency to this issue too – with the pace of change and the level of digital disruption set to increase further in the coming years. We need significant action quickly to ensure that digital is a world which everyone can benefit from.

Digital technology is increasingly at the heart of how we function as a society. Over the past 20 years it has transformed how we work, communicate, consume, learn, engage and think. The digital world has brought many opportunities for improved wellbeing through more personalised services, cheaper goods and products, more choice, wider connections with others and radically improved access to knowledge and communication.

For many people, digital is the norm and benefits accrue to them on a daily basis. However, the evidence has been clear for many years that the digital transformation is not without risks. These risks affect those who are digitally engaged – in relation to personal privacy, information quality and security and the pervasive nature of technology that impacts on life 24/7. But the risks are even greater for those who are not digitally engaged and are left behind this revolution.

Those who are digitally excluded do not benefit from the great many advantages the technology can bring. They are more limited in their access to public services, to channels for civic and democratic participation, to a wide array of knowledge and information, to opportunities for cultural and social engagement, to the labour market and to opportunities for education and learning. Addressing these disparities is one of the great social challenges of our age.