Capita Software Services held its first housing conference in July, with the focus on digital inclusion and how the right technology can improve tenant services and reduce costs for housing providers.
The keynote speaker Professor Germaine Greer suggested that to rebuild communities and support productive, cohesive societies, the placement and structure of homes should be considered more closely. She added that housing people of different ages, races and backgrounds together to mix and form cohesive communities was the key to successful housing projects.
George Grant, publisher of Housing Technology, presented a blueprint for the future technology infrastructure of housing providers, with a focus on the need to deliver ‘straight-through processing’ (STP) for the automation of front- to back-office services. This means that an initial tenant query can be seamlessly distributed to relevant departments, such as repairs or finance, without the need for error-prone human intervention at every stage in the process.
Malcolm Wilson, resources director, and Alun Dowling, head of ICT at RCT Homes demonstrated how they have successfully implemented two-way digital communication with tenants, with their digital empowerment programme opening up a simple and immediate communication channel for the organisation to engage with its tenants. SMS technology had improved a wide range of tenant services at RCT Homes, including repairs, appointment reminders, satisfaction surveys and rent management.
Chris Deery, head of ICT, Solihull Community Housing, explained how his organisation had delivered an award-winning scheme to deliver broadband to tenants living in blocks of flats via internet-over-powerline. Solihull Community Housing was awarded ‘Most Innovative Project’ by the National Federation of ALMOs, while Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, which supported the project, was awarded Beacon status for Digital Inclusion.
Roger Birkinshaw, housing director, Capita Software Services, said, “Everyone has a different understanding of what a digital service is. It could be broadband provision, remotely controlled surveillance cameras, mobile applications for staff, or services offered online to all residents and tenants.
“Housing providers need comprehensive and individual technology systems in order to serve their communities. Perhaps we are not too far away from housing estates accessing a corporate wireless network for use by the whole community; tenants, businesses, local authorities and housing provider officers.”