With serendipitous timing, on the day of Housing Technology’s ‘Reform IT 2013’ event at the BT Tower in September, a new Digital Champions Network for Housing was launched to help housing providers support their residents to get online and extend their digital skills before the introduction of universal credit.
Ten housing providers representing a combined housing stock of over 221,000 properties and 455,000 residents have signed up as Founder Partners. They are: Eastlands Homes, Hanover, The Hyde Group, Midland Heart, North Hertfordshire Homes, Orbit Group, Peabody, Raven Housing Trust, Southway Housing Trust and Sovereign Housing.
Powered by Digital Unite and inspired by Affinity Sutton, the Digital Champions Network for Housing (DCN4H) is an innovative online platform to create, develop and support digital champions in local communities.
Extending the success and investment of Affinity Sutton’s ‘Get Connected’ project, DCN4H provides access to practical online courses, extensive teaching resources and a moderated community forum to help people become digital champions. Furthermore, the functionality behind DCN4H enables each participating housing provider to track activity and monitor management data to measure and evaluate its impact and success.
Kathy Valdes, business development manager, Digital Unite, said, “In our 17 years of delivering digital skills, we know that the best and often only way to support people to get online is by having trained volunteers and staff working locally who can inspire and teach others and provide support.
“DCN4H provides housing providers with a practical and comprehensive set of tools to develop their own armies of digital champions. Most excitingly, it will be the conduit to enable collaboration and knowledge sharing across the housing sector, at both a management level and on the ground, to tackle digital exclusion.”
Stephanie Noyce, head of financial Inclusion, Affinity Sutton, said, “Having our digital champions trained and supported has been fundamental in keeping our digital inclusion activities running on the ground. It has provided us with a sustainable programme that works nationally across communities, in turn enabling residents to tackle common challenges such as welfare reform.
“Our Get Connected e-learning site has already helped 68 of our residents establish themselves as digital champions, in turn supporting more than 300 residents, and we are continuing to see results. A recent survey of ours found that digital inclusion among our residents has increased from 57 per cent in 2011 to 74 per cent 2013.”