Doteveryone and partners are providing a unique offer of kit and connectivity to get social housing tenants online.
Note: On 1 April Go ON UK merged with Doteveryone, the new organisation established by Martha Lane Fox to build a brilliantly digital Britain – for everyone, by everyone. Go ON UK is no longer a standalone organisation, but the Go ON UK brand will continue to be used for Doteveryone’s digital skills activity.
Since the rise of the internet in the late nineties, the number of UK people online has increased steadily. This has led to a perception that “everybody uses the internet now” and that it’s now “job done”. This is simply not the case. As reports from Go ON UK and the Government Digital Inclusion Strategy noted.
- 12.6m UK people lack Basic Digital Skills (that’s over 20% of the UK population)
- 4.4m people (37%) of those who are digitally excluded are social housing tenants.
These are stark numbers, but don’t tell the whole story. We know from Go ON UK’s research that those who can benefit most are often those with the least opportunity to do so. Our digital skills projects are focused on these 'furthest first' people, ensuring we help those who are most in need.
Recent research from Lloyds Bank shows that the average annual saving for an online UK consumer is £744. Regardless of income level, that’s a significant saving, but for those who face some of the hardest financial challenges every day, the resulting impact can be far greater.
Doteveryone is working with its partners and two London Boroughs - Go ON Croydon and Go ON Lewisham. These projects will trial new ways in which we can help everyone achieve the benefits of the internet. These projects are set up on a “test and learn” basis, the learning from which we will share transparently later this year.
One project (launching in April 2016) focusses on social housing tenants in one specific area of Croydon, where digital inclusion levels are low. The residents will be invited to take their first steps in the digital world through the provision of a low-cost tablet, training from volunteer Digital Champions from one of our partners, and access to a really competitive broadband deal. As we know from other projects, it takes a mix of essential elements to ensure lasting digital inclusion. These are:
- Affordable equipment
- Affordable connectivity
- Basic Digital Skills training
- Motivation or a ‘hook’
- Understanding of how to stay safe in the digital world
No single element can deliver sustained benefits on its own. All of them are needed to help people gain the necessary confidence to step into the digital world.
This is the first time that we have made such an offer to a social housing community, and we expect that uptake levels for this unique bundle will be high. Moreover, the benefits of being online go beyond the financial ones. These can include:
- Enabling older people to live independently for longer (thus reducing their requirements from carers or the NHS, and improving their quality of life
- Helping people keep in touch with friends and family, thereby tackling social isolation and loneliness
- Access to education/training resources, or job vacancies. This helps children to do better at school, and enables those in training to access a wider range of resources. Nearly 80% of job vacancies are only advertised on line.
The list could be much longer, and the impact of these ‘softer benefits’ will vary according to individual circumstances. Furthermore, for social housing tenants the ability to communicate with their provider at a convenient time for them (as opposed to when the call centre is open) to report issues or ask questions helps to make their busy lives less frenetic. From the landlord’s perspective, mass communication with residents is simpler and more cost effective when done online.
So what happens next? We will be tracking the uptake of the offer, and evaluating the impact on the participants over the coming weeks. This will include measuring their change in confidence in their digital skills, and where they expect to go next as their knowledge and competence grow.