Highland Council signs up to Digital Participation
9th September 2016
Highland Council has made a continuing commitment to tackling digital exclusion in the Highlands. The council has become the latest organisation to sign SCVOs Digital Participation Charter.
Scotland's Digital Participation Charter is run by SCVO and demonstrates a public commitment to addressing issues around digital inclusion. The charter aims to increase levels of digital participation in Scotland by bringing together organisations from all sectors that want to develop both individuals' and / or their own Basic Digital Skills.
The Charter has already been signed by over 200 organisations, including other councils, public and private sector organisations, charities and community groups. Signing the charter commits the organisations to work in partnership with other signatories to promote digital participation and basic digital skills, as well as the following commitments:
Ensuring that all of our staff and volunteers have an opportunity to learn basic digital skills, and that they take advantage of this opportunity.
Encouraging and supporting our staff and volunteers to help other people learn basic digital skills, and help other organisations to embrace digital tools.
Contributing resources and practical support for digital participation initiatives in Scotland in whatever ways we can.
Channelling our efforts through the Digital Participation Programme, so that our activities can be coordinated for maximum impact and measured consistently.
Using common language based on digital participation and basic digital skills, to make our thinking and actions as clear as possible.
Chair of Resources Committee, Councillor Bill Fernie said: "Digital skills are essential for everyone to participate fully in modern life and access all the advantages and opportunities which come with those skills."
He added: "Highland Council is currently part of the Digital Highland partnership, a group of organisations working together to provide a sustainable, partnership approach to support Highland residents to go online and addressing issues around digital inclusion. This work also supports Highland Council's ongoing development of online services, allowing customers to access services anytime, anywhere, on any device."
The Highland Council’s Digital First project aims to have 40% of customer transactions carried out online by April 2017, offering customers the opportunity to engage with the council at a time and place that suits them. As well as increasing the number of available online forms, the project looks to redesign each process to make it as efficient as possible, developing functionality to improve the online experience and carrying out communication activity to inform and encourage customers to go online.
To date, Digital First has launched 91 online forms, ranging from reporting potholes and paying council tax to applying for council housing and benefits. Currently, 31% of transactions with customers are carried out online as opposed to by telephone and face to face, with customer feedback demonstrating we are offering customers a simple and user friendly online option.
While we are looking for 40% of transactions online, we understand and appreciate that not all our customers are able to choose online as an option. Some customers face barriers to maximising the benefits on offer by being online, not just using online services but also accessing other benefits, applying for work, skyping with family etc.
Alongside the Digital First project, we are also supporting digital participation organisation "Citizens Online" with the Digital Highland project. This project aims to develop a sustainable, partnership approach to addressing issues around Digital inclusion in the Highlands. This project has recruited digital champions throughout the Highlands to support communities and individuals with digital skills. A website has been created (www.digitalhighland.org.uk) to signpost customers to free internet access and digital support and training in their area. And the Digital Highland partnership has been created, involving 15 public and third sector organisations who work together to ensure we collaborative meet the digital needs of local communities.
David McNeill, Director of Digital at Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “We’re really excited that Highland Council has joined the national movement to get everyone in Scotland online. With each new organisation that signs up, we take another step towards our ambitious target to break down the digital divide in Scotland by giving people the support, motivation and skills they need to get the most out of the digital age.”
Cllr Bill Fernie with Eilidh Little, SCVO One Digital Development Officer.