Brett Sadler

The Digital Inclusion Blues

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I’ve been ‘drafting’ a Digital Inclusion strategy for what feels like an ice age (for the record it’s been several months). I’ve had countless conversations with people, both face-to-face and via Twitter about the subject, I’ve also attended workshops and I’ve read tons of digital inclusion strategies and statistics.

So why the difficulty in writing a Digital Inclusion Strategy? For one thing, the picture is ever changing. The pace of technological change is fast and constant and not a week goes by without a new technological advancement that could be applied to #ukhousing.

Another challenge is that there is just so much to do to tackle digital inclusion. For the DI Strategy I’m writing, I’m trying to cover lots of different sections within our organisation, with a wide range of skills, experience and ages. This is just not easy. One answer for one group of tenants isn’t going to work for another. This leads to a really lengthy strategy, which I hate. I really want to keep this as short as possible, otherwise no-one will read it (including me). There’s also the challenge of rural vs coastal, the sheer availability of reliable and affordable internet access and mobile blackspots. You just are not able to connect in some areas.

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A third challenge is that to some degree we are all working in isolation. We have social housing tenants, private tenants and owner occupiers, many of which are suffering from digital exclusion, but we don’t always offer the same things to everyone. My DI Strategy for example is aimed at our tenants and customers. There’s no real mention as yet about the many tenants and owner occupiers who aren’t our direct customers accessing what we are looking to offer. Sure, I’ve had some conversations and meetings with other social landlords, but nothing has got off the ground about this (although I haven’t given up on this!).

Like a lot of organisations, we’ve been gathering some profiling data from our tenants. One area in particular I’m hoping to gain some insight on from the tenant profiling data is on digital inclusion. After asking on Twitter for some suggestions, these are the questions we included in our questionnaire:

  1. Do you have access to the internet at home?
  2. Do you have a smart phone?
  3. Do you access the internet on your phone? (a) on 3G (b) on wifi?
  4. Are you confident in your internet skills?

Now the sheer volume of suggested questions I received was amazing! I decided on asking the above questions as a ‘phase 1’ set of questions; ‘phase 2’ would go into a lot more detail than this. We’ve also been carrying out some more specific digital inclusion questionnaires in our Extra Care Housing Scheme (for Older People) to see if this shows us anything.

This is all coupled with some crystal clear statistics available which include:

  • Latest figures show there are still have a million people in Wales who are digitally excluded. One in five Welsh adults has never used the internet. Source: Wales Co-op, Digital Inclusion: Stronger Communities, 2014
  • 46% of social housing tenants do not have access to the internet within their own home. This amounts to over 214,000 digitally excluded tenants. Source: Welsh Government, ‘Device use and household access, by tenure’, National Survey for Wales Internet Access Figures, 2013

I have had some successes though (well one). I’ve been trialling the £30 UbiSlate tablet from Datawind and I’m now starting to roll this trial out to include some tenants (it’s not much of a success but I’ll take it).

However, I am really pleased to say that I’ve finally come to a conclusion – one which I have really had since I started drafting the DI Strategy. It’s not going to change the world, but for me it’s a really important step in the process.

It’s better to get on with doing something than just talking about it.

Mind you, first things first, I just need to complete and gain approval for V8 of our ‘draft’ DI Strategy……………

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2 thoughts on “The Digital Inclusion Blues

  1. Pingback: The Digital (and Social) Journey | Brett Sadler

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