Housing’s role in Scottish Government’s digital strategy

Listening to some good musicThe Scottish Government has reaffirmed its determination to work with housing associations to help promote digital inclusion and participation.

Releasing its new digital strategy this week, the government said it intends to place digital at the heart of everything it does from reforming public services, tackling inequalities and empowering communities.

The new strategy, called Realising Scotland’s full potential in a Digital World, states that while there has been a 20% increase in broadband access at home amongst social housing tenants (42%-62%) since 2014, there is still an opportunity gap which needs to be closed.

According to the strategy: “The very groups most likely to gain disproportionately from the benefits of being on line through financial savings, reduced isolation and access to employment opportunities are those most likely to be excluded. 99% of households in the highest income groups now enjoy access to the internet, but it is far less widespread amongst the elderly, the disabled, those living in social housing and people on low incomes.”

The Scottish Government has worked with partners to develop a Digital Participation Toolkit 2 for social housing providers, supported the Wheatley Group to trial new forms of connectivity in Glasgow and seen Castle Rock Edinvar implement broadband access in all its sheltered accommodation for just under £1.00 a week per household.

In the report, Martin Pollhammer, chief executive at East Lothian Housing Association, states: “The housing sector can play its part in the digital revolution, developing and creating new services fit for the digital age.”

The report adds: “Our aim is to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to participate in the digital world and to use the power of the internet to enable social mobility and tackle persistent inequalities. This starts with the basic digital skills that are required to search or buy goods and services online, use social networks and have an understanding of how to act in a safe and secure way. But it must go beyond that. People are at different points of their digital journey and many feel uncomfortable about the level of change that they see going on around them.

“We will therefore support the further expansion of the Digital Participation Charter and provide funds for community groups that enjoy the trust of those who are excluded from the digital world and can create both the reasons and deliver the training required to help people to go online for the first time. We will also ensure that as we roll new forms of connectivity out across the country, we work with housing associations, third sector organisations and other community groups to prototype affordable internet access at home and in other trusted settings.”

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