Over 150 people turned up to the first ever Digital Scotland Festival
There is a danger of society becoming divided as a result of new technology – delegates at a Scottish digital conference heard this week.
While the internet is helping many access information, find jobs and meet new people others are becoming isolated, losing employment and missing out on culture.
We need to think about what some of the changes will be so as not to disadvantage people now and in the future
In a well-balanced debate at Digital Scotland Festival, held at Edinburgh University’s Informatics Forum on Monday, Michael Fourman, chair of The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s digital participation inquiry and one of three panel members, argued people now have to be online to be able to exercise all their human rights.
He called on the Scottish Government to provide better education on technology and improve digital infrastructure so everyone is given the opportunity to get online.
“We need to think about what some of the changes will be so as not to disadvantage people now and in the future,” he warned.
Iain Smith, Inclusion Scotland policy and engagement officer, praised how the internet has changed some disabled people’s lives but highlighted that 46% of long-term ill still don’t access it in comparison to just 14% of the rest of society.
He said that companies offering internet-only tariffs and best deals for online shoppers can lead to those not online becoming socially excluded.
Audience members questioned whether the internet was just a cheap way to provide services, whether it created new points of exploitation and why it seems we are always playing catch up when it comes to dealing with the negative effects.
Chris Yiu, director of digital participation at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said the pace of the change to society the drive to digital has had is faster than anything ever encountered - but highlighted the benefits, such as people having access to more information to educate themselves, look for jobs and connect with people.
“Digital is changing the way we learn at an incredible rate. The ability to get yourself educated is phenomenally powerful,” he added.
As well as the debate delegates were also given the chance to network and move between discussion tables each with a different topic throughout the day.
Sally Dyson, of SCVO’s digital participation team who opened the day’s events, said: “To create the opportunity for everyone to access the internet and all its benefits is a job for all of us.
“DigiScotFest14 is the first time that everyone who has an interest in making that access real has had the opportunity to come together to figure out how we can tackle this and to learn from each other.
“I’m really excited that the network, energy and connections that we’ve created will turn into more local activity to help us in our challenge.”