I have been giving a lot of thought recently to digital inclusion and this timely post from Brett Sadler sums up the challenges confronting not only housing but also the health and care sectors in a digitally connected society. The pace of technology change is phenomenal and there is an urgent need for a UK wide cross sector digital vision and strategy.
With so many different digital projects, pilots and initiatives underway there is a real risk and cost of duplicating services which may already be provided by another organisation in the local area. The paradox is that we are not using technology effectively to connect the formal and informal resources already available in communities.
About four in 10 people aged 65 and over do not have access to the internet at home while more than five million over-65s have never used the internet. According to academics it would cost £875m to teach the 6.2 million people who lack basic online skills.
The reality is that just getting people online is not the answer. We need to be investing in building connected communities which acknowledge and celebrate the richness of skills and knowledge available in every street in the country which can be harnessed for the good of a community.
Whilst I have some concerns with the recent Policy Exchange report suggesting that access to the internet is a panacea for the wider problems of social isolation and loneliness I do believe that we can use digital technology creatively to build networks of connected support around an individual.
Connected care needs different partnerships and collaborations to transform the delivery of care & support and to bridge the digital divide. The Housing Goes Digital events have really encouraged new thinking in the sector. I would now like to see a series of Care in the Digital Age events which inspire staff and people who use services from across housing, care, health, charities and social enterprises to collaborate in exploring how to embed digital innovations as an integral part of the support available within communities.
I believe that exciting people about the potential for digital technology to improve and enhance the quality of their lives is the way forward for digital inclusion.
I consider myself quite a tech savvy person and I can certainly see the benefits to #ukhousing staff and customers of being digital included, but with digital inclusion being one of my areas of responsibility, tackling this area has been no walk in the park.
I’ve been drafting a digital inclusion strategy for several months now. It’s not that I can’t write the strategy, it’s that technology is changing so fast.
So let’s go back to the start of my journey. When researching the digital inclusion strategy, two quotes jumped out at me:
- Research has shown that getting someone online can save them an average of £560 a year and has benefits for education, employment and retirement.
- The introduction of Universal Credit will also mean that going online is the only way to apply for and manage Universal Credit applications for the majority of those in receipt of benefits.
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