September 22, 2015 : Chris Yiu

Let’s talk about digital participation

And all of the opportunities and challenges ahead for the people we care about.


The other week the team took a bit of time out to reflect on our mission and where next for digital participation in Scotland. Part of this process was a conversation about the opportunities that the digital world is opening up for people, the new challenges that come along with it, and what else we can do to help.

Here’s a short summary of some of the things we discussed.


The digital world is opening up all sorts of opportunities for people to learn, get things done and participate in society. We spent a lot of time talking about how the internet can help people stay in touch, and how the extra flexibility can make it easier to balance different things in your life.

  • It’s easier than ever to find information, discover new things, learn
  • Apps can take some of the hassle out of day-to-day life, e.g. bus times, school dinner money
  • It’s easier to start things e.g. self-publish a book, raise money on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo
  • It’s easier to reach a wide audience, build a social movement
  • Digital can help reduce isolation and loneliness, it’s possible to stay connected without being physically together
  • Huge opportunity to increase democratic participation and engagement with civil society
  • Disruptive new technologies, particularly in healthcare, VR and machine learning
  • The way we work and the jobs we do can be more flexible
  • Moving public services online should make them easier and more efficient


There are some real and pressing challenges as more of our lives move online. Safety and security came up a lot, and in particular how hard this can be for people who aren’t used to doing things online. We also spent a lot of time on the digital divide, and in particular whether the gap between the haves and have-nots is getting wider (even as the absolute number of people affected is going down).

  • It feels like things are changing faster all the time, and it can be hard to follow
  • The digital divide is still with us, and may be getting more pronounced as those who are online pull further ahead
  • Information overload and analysis paralysis
  • Staying safe and secure online, and keeping control of your privacy
  • Some jobs are pretty tough, and automation may make others obsolete
  • The online echo chamber and mob mentality can be pretty unpleasant
  • Digital-by-default public services may risk leaving some users behind

Things we could do to help

We have a growing programme of activity in place to promote digital participation in Scotland, but there’s always more that could be done. Our discussion here echoed lots of the things that we hear when we’re out and about meeting people involved in local and hyperlocal digital skills projects.

  • Provide more thought leadership, and keep raising the profile of digital participation
  • Run more hands-on workshops and practical support for organisations
  • Collect and disseminate more resources and learning materials for people to re-use
  • Showcase more of the stories of people making a difference to digital participation
  • Scale up our portfolio of community projects and partners

If you’d like to find out more about our work then check out our website and read our latest annual report. Or even better, to join the conversation just drop us an email or find us on Twitter!

Important: Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don't represent those of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

by Chris Yiu