Digital Inclusion Strategy

Fife housing associations have held an event to develop a strategy to ensure that tenants are able to access the internet and benefit from support and training to make the most of information technology.

The event was organised by Fife Housing Association Alliance and staff from Fife, Glen, Kingdom and Ore Valley housing associations took part to consider how they could work together to develop and implement a Digital Inclusion Strategy that would benefit their tenants, customers, communities and their own organisations.

Bill Banks, Chief Executive with Kingdom, said: “Digital inclusion is something we can’t ignore, it’s much more than providing the infrastructure and hardware to access the internet, it’s also about providing tenants, customers and staff with the support, advice, assistance and training they need, to allow them to optimise their access and I.T. use and gain the greatest benefits.

“But it is not a straight forward issue and our strategy will need to recognise that numerous different needs exist, therefore a variety of solutions will need considered and progressed. It is however an opportunity to enhance engagement with our tenants and communities to ensure the best solutions are implemented. It also provides real opportunities for partnership working to facilitate change.”

He added: “We all live in a society where there is increased reliance on being able to use information technologies. The Scottish Government have referred to digital inclusion as being about ensuring that nobody gets left behind and that Scotland’s people are able to exercise their right to engage with the community around them, access learning and services.

“The ability to access and use online services is increasingly important for tenants, whether that is to make on line benefits applications, seek employment and training opportunities or to find out more about landlord services and community activities. The potential benefits to tenants can help build their capacity and address issues associated with financial inclusion, fuel poverty as well as social benefits associated with health and wellbeing.”

Speakers at the seminar included Martin Bain, BT’s Scottish Digital Inclusion Champion, who set the scene and outlined to the group the issues to be addressed related to infrastructure installations and the potential benefits tenants could gain through digital inclusion.

Craig Stephenson, Digital Inclusion Officer with the Link Group, explained the practical measures Link have introduced to progress their approach to digital inclusion, including the training initiatives they have introduced to build tenants capacity to access and use the internet.

Gary Haldane, Head of ICT with Kingdom, provided examples of the technologies being used by Kingdom which have benefited both staff and tenants and highlight some of the barriers that needed addressed as part of a Digital Inclusion Strategy.

Andrew McDaniel, Community Initiatives Officer with the Alliance, outlined areas to be considered by the attendees and potential areas that could be incorporated into the Alliance Digital Inclusion Strategy. The members then broke into discussion workshops and considered how the various barriers could be addressed and implemented.

Bill Banks chaired the final question and answer session on the day and said he felt the event had been excellent and provided lots of ideas that could be incorporated into the development of an effective Digital Inclusion Strategy.