At our Housing Technology 2010 conference in February, digital exclusion among tenants was a hot topic for the delegates, despite few of them having direct responsibility for the provision of technology and internet access to tenants.
There is considerable debate about how technology can be made more widely available to tenants, many of whom are financially excluded as well. Digital Britain’s ‘RaceOnline 2012’ campaign is certainly a positive step in the right direction, in particular its ‘Social Housing Providers Digital Inclusion Action Plan’, available from www.raceonline2010.org, which is quite rightly taking an holistic view of the problem.
However, we believe that the first step towards digital inclusion must be to encourage and educate tenants about what technology, and in particular the internet, can do for them. Any plans to provide free or very low-cost hardware, software and internet access are likely to be less effective until the tenants themselves can appreciate the changes it will make to their lives. Housing providers should therefore be considering free drop-in centres with PCs, IT training courses and advice on how technology and the internet can give them better access to jobs, cheaper goods and greater community engagement through social networking.
We will be doing a major feature on digital exclusion in the next issue of the magazine, but in the meantime, we would be interested to know what you or your organisation is doing about digital exclusion among your tenants – please contact email@example.com.