Digital Participation in Scotland

18 May 2012 in Audience Development Blog, General

We are working online, networking online and promoting online more and more these days. Most of my work revolves around online marketing and audience development, partly because there is a learning curve involved for the majority of people in terms of building websites, setting up social networks and promoting yourself through online technologies. But also because using the web is a cost-effective way at reaching a large global audience.

Of course we still rely on and serve our local communities and again we use the web and online technologies to connect with our communities. But how many people are online in Scotland and who are the groups we are not reaching with our online promotion?

What is Digital Participation? It basically describes people’s ability to gain access to digital technology and understand how to use it creatively. The Scottish Government’s Social Research arm published a report on Digital Participation in Scotland this month, which gives a summary of the various data available to us around the topic of internet usage.

Across the UK 74% of people have a broadband connection at home, this is compared to 61% in Scotland – so why the difference?

The report suggests that to a certain extent the figures are skewed by the large number of people online based in the South of England, and that Scotland’s digital participation rate is not actually that different from communities across the rest of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However it does ask the question – who is not online?

Based on a review of four different research studies conducted by Ipsos Mori, Ofcom, the Scottish Household Survey and the Oxford Internet Survey, the Scottish Governments report found that the demographic make-up for non-internet users appears to be mainly older people, who have low household incomes and are not working.

Unsurprisingly the report found that people of an older age, or on lower incomes, with fewer educational qualifications, who are not working, that have a disability or long-term illness, or are from areas of deprivation are much less likely to be digitally engaged. There are some pretty obvious reasons why some of the people in these groups might be digitally marginalised, and, again, unsurprisingly the biggest barriers to getting online were associated with cost and infrastructure (in some areas of Scotland we know it is virtually impossible to get a reliable internet connection).

What was interesting were the levels, from the non-user groups, of disinterest in the web. The Scottish Household Survey found that of the individuals who do not use the internet 62% said they were unlikely to ever use it. The report suggests that a possible explanation for this is a lack of knowledge about computers and the internet and therefore people are unable to recognise the benefits being online can have for them directly. It was also interesting to learn that there is ever so slightly more people accessing the internet from home in rural areas than urban areas in Scotland – but we are talking 1 or 2% here.

So what relevance does this have for us and audience development? It lets you know which groups will not respond to an online campaign for a start. If you are looking to engage with people identified in the non-users groups then you can’t rely on your online marketing to reach them alone. 

The other advice that the report gives, which is of use for us when thinking about targeting audiences through the internet, is the recommendations on how to encourage people to get online. It is suggested that by communicating the relevant and specific benefits to a non-engaged group is one way of breaking down any barriers. Second is to provide reassurance that the internet is for them. It is a commonly held belief that the internet is time-consuming and detracts from daily life, to break this perception down we could emphasise how much fun the internet is, that it helps to keep the mind active and can save you money.

The Scottish Government set out its Digital Ambitions for Scotland in October 2011, which stated that ‘the rate of broadband uptake by people in Scotland should be at or above the UK average by 2013, and should be the highest among the UK nations by 2015′. If Scotland can achieve this target our job of promoting online should be made easier, but we will need to wait till next year to see if this ambition has been achievable.

Digital participation in Scotlandor you can visit the Scottish Government website.

If you are planning a digital marketing campaign or would like to explore the options available to you through the web then do get in touch to arrange a meeting with me. You can also check out our Tip Sheets for Digital Marketing.