The world around us is changing extremly quickly and for those who live in social housing, it is extremly important that they can keep up. Of particular importance is the idea of digital inclusion. Digital inclusion refers to issues around unequal access by those who have less to technology, internet, hardware and really anything that has to do with the digital world. We have to understand that the topic of digital inclusion must be looked at in terms of access to knowledge in addtion to just hardware and availablity. As public and social housing providers, we have to think about how those we serve might be suffering from unequal access to the digital world.
Unequal Access, Unequal Opportunity:
How do you find a job? How do you shop? How do you look up information if you need an answer? My guess is that you are doing so on some type of device. This is common place for many of us but the fact is that people in social housing are often devoid of the opportunities we take for granted everyday. An interesting article in the Guardian from a few years ago showed that half of the adults that had never been online lived in social housing in the UK. The government in the UK is pushing more and more of its services to online portals. This is playing itself out across not only the UK but all of Europe, the USA and other larger western countries. How do the poorest in our society keep up?
Spreading the Digital World in Public and Social Housing:
The Peabody Group in the UK is a social housing agency that is partnering with the government in its digital inclusion strategy. The organization’s main goal is to reduce digital exclusion with their residents. Their aim was to reduce this gap by 25% over two years. The focus for Peabody was to get their residents both access and skills. They have a program that trains residents in different community centers in and around London. They have kitted tablets and laptops that reach out to areas of London where there are no training centers. The Peabody Group has found that this inclusion helps residents with job training, satisfaction and connection to families and communities.
Austin Housing Authority-USA
Austin, Texas is becoming well known as a cutting edge innovative city. The housing authority there recently won an award for its digital inclusion plan. The agency worked with partners and the city to upgrade hardware and create stipends for residents to work as lab apprentices in various computer labs around the city. The plan called, “Unlocking the Connection”, aims to bring the internet to 4300 public housing residents of all ages. The plan included courses on digital literacy and how to use technology. Of 500 households eligible, over 80% received free internet through a ground breaking relationship with Google. Another 150 families received a free computer.
What is Your Agency Doing?
Austin and Peabody are just two organizations helping their residents with digital inclusion. Organizations in Berlin, Sydney, Tokyo, Seattle and New York have similar programs taking place. What is your organization doing? We would love to hear more. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org