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'Many people didn't grow up with digital skills'

One way to appreciate the difficulty in reversing Scotland's uniquely poor performance in digital participation is to look at the CV of the man who has the task of fixing it.

Chris Yiu, a Cambridge-trained economist, has worked in senior digital roles for think tank the Policy Exchange, for HM Treasury and for McKinsey. He is now director of digital participation for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).

Now, with SCVO's team and in partnership with the Scottish Government and third-sector digital inclusion charities such as the Tinder Foundation, he is seeking ways to get the private sector to provide cash, expertise and real estate to reach out to Scotland's can't click/won't click areas.

The SCVO is currently applying to the Big Lottery Fund Basic Online Skills funding programme and "actively seeking corporate partners and others who can provide support in kind, and delivery partners who want to run community hubs for people to come together and learn basic online skills".

Yiu quoted research from consultants Booz that suggests that widening the online community in the UK could earn the economy an extra £65 billion a year, due to the "network effect" that means that positive benefits are increased as they become widely shared. Given Scotland's statistics, the potential benefits north of the Border are worth significantly more than the rule-of-thumb 10% slice of that figure.

Yiu said: "We now have a significant number of people who didn't grow up with basic digital skills, and didn't pick them up in the workplace.

Without some kind of intervention, for a whole bunch of reasons it might not occur to them to go online, or they would be too intimidated to do so, or they wouldn't have the opportunity or wouldn't know where to go.

"That is the situation we are in. We have to help that group, because the alternative is you pass them by, and that's just not acceptable, because people deserve at least the opportunity to be included.

"Motivation is the single biggest barrier to people picking up digital skills. Of course, getting online is a personal decision, but it is important people understand what the web has to offer before they pass it up."

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