18 November 2015
Why is digital inclusion so important to social housing providers?
Keri highlights the importance of digital inclusion to the housing sector and how it can benefit both tenants and housing providers.
This is a phrase that is attracting a significant amount of interest. So what is digital inclusion and why is it so important within the housing sector?
The power of the web is increasing dramatically. From shopping, banking and paying bills, more and more services are being transferred online and the government itself is taking the lead in this with their own digital strategy.
Digital Inclusion focuses on the use of technology to improve the lives of disadvantaged people and the places in which they live. However there are barriers that needs to be overcome including access (connectivity), literacy/ language barriers (dyslexia or English as a second language), skills (knowledge & know how), motivation (the need to use the internet) and trust (willing to share information online).
Housing providers are often the first organisations to be alerted to the social problems tenants are facing. They are now realising the importance of digital inclusion, including the benefits to the tenants and the organisation itself.
The main benefit for housing providers relate to the sector’s concerns about the cost of living and income streams. Did you know that social housing providers could save more than £340m a year if they adopt digital processes - as well as time and resources?
Another important point to note is the Universal Credit scheme. The scheme combines six benefits in one single payment - with claimants applying online. In an ideal world, this is a phenomenal step into the 21st century, however we can’t forget that almost half of the adult population in the UK who do not use the internet live in social housing.
Providers are also recognising the need to equip tenants with the IT skills necessary for further skills and employability. Social housing has a high proportion of tenants on low incomes and with low skills. By increasing digital skills and access, tenants can report repairs, manage rent and get involved in their communities in a way that’s never been done before.
So what’s involved? The steps needed to incorporate digital inclusion can be as simple as ensuring that all tenants have access to the internet, they have the training and support to navigate the web to avail of services they may need and ensuring that all internal housing services are transferred online for all residents to access.
The housing sector are the ‘vital catalyst’ to improve digital inclusion in the UK and support those who need the most help to join the digital age. It's just up to the housing provider to take the leap to help their tenants step forward into our digital future.