Narrowing the digital divide in Scotland is one of the most important issues faced by policymakers. However, there citizens across Scotland who are excluded from this valuable resource and in turn excluded from the benefits access to the internet can bring.
The internet continues to fundamentally alter how we receive goods and services. In 2012, the UK Government published its Digital Strategy in which it put forward a ‘digital by default’ emphasis to delivering public services. This included an expectation by the Department for Work and Pensions that 80% of Universal Credit claimants will, by 2017, make a claim, check details of payments, notify changes in circumstances and apply for jobs all through a single online account.
In addition, the internet continues to be an indispensable tool for consumers seeking the best prices for goods and services. Without access to price comparison websites, for instance, consumers may not be able to secure the best deals for things like home or car insurance, mortgages or credit cards. Similarly, a consumer without an e-mail address will not be eligible for money-saving add-ons like paperless billing that would help reduce their utility or broadband costs.
Taken together, these and other examples add up to what is known as the ‘poverty premium’. This is the idea that low-income consumers, through a variety of reasons, end up paying more for essential items, and is something that can clearly be exacerbated by a lack of internet access.
Because of this ever-growing importance of the internet to CAB clients, CAS has taken a special interest in recent years to learn more about their experience in gaining access to the internet and determine how able this group might be able to cope with the move to online services.