Two schemes to help people access the internet across Scotland have been unveiled by the Scottish Government.
The government has announced £15 million of funding to help disadvantaged and low-income families get online by providing a computer, free data and technical support.
Part of the Connecting Scotland programme, the funding will prioritise disadvantaged families with children and young people leaving care, identified by councils and third-sector organisations.
An estimated 23,000 households will get a device, 12 months of unlimited data and technical support to help them get online safely and securely.
Households will also be linked with a “digital champion” who will provide six months of training and support over the phone.
Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “It has never been more important to be connected and online.
“It enables us to access information about how to stay safe and healthy during Covid-19, keep in touch with friends and family, and study or work.
“I am therefore very pleased to be able to extend our Connecting Scotland programme and tackle the digital divide by reaching over 30,000 households across both phases that are experiencing difficulties with online access.
“An additional £15 million will help thousands of families and young care leavers who could not otherwise afford to get online, making sure they are not further disadvantaged by providing the necessary hardware, data, and skills they need to get connected.
“This builds on £25 million investment in devices and connectivity which will support around 70,000 school pupils.”
People and businesses unable to access superfast broadband as part of the government’s plan for 100% coverage by the end of 2021 will also be eligible for vouchers worth up to £5,000 to connect to the internet in other ways, such as mobile WiFi.
The Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme will provide funding of up to £5,000 to help homes and businesses not in scope of either Reaching 100% (R100) contracts or planned commercial investment to install superfast broadband.
Interim vouchers of up to £400 are also being made available for premises where superfast broadband is planned for after the end of 2021 – with an additional £250 for those in the hardest-to-reach areas.
An online postcode checker has been launched to give homes and businesses information on eligibility and details about future broadband installation plans.
Scotland’s Connectivity Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “Work is under way to build the infrastructure which will underpin R100, backed by Scottish Government funding of £579 million.
“This, together with commercially driven work, will ensure the vast majority of homes and businesses across the country can access superfast broadband by the end of 2021.
“But Scotland has some of the most challenging locations anywhere in Europe for providing telecoms infrastructure and I have always been clear that additional measures may still be needed to provide superfast access to some of the hardest-to-reach areas.
“That is why we have been developing plans in parallel with the main infrastructure investment to ensure our 100% commitment is met and the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme will ensure that everyone can access and benefit from this world-leading digital capability.”
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