Digital inclusion tips for social housing providers in 2013

I’ve talked on here before about my work with social housing providers, so I thought you might be interested in a blog I wrote for the Guardian Housing Network about how to make 2013 the year for digital inclusion:

Six steps for improve digital inclusion in 2013

2013 is going to be a big year for digital inclusion in the housing sector. From the end of this year tenants will need to start claiming their benefits online, and so housing providers can no longer avoid the shift to digital. Over the past year I’ve helped a number of organisations with their digital strategies, and I’ve picked up a few tips along the way of how to implement a digital strategy that I hope will help you and your organisation in 2013.

Embrace digital

Wherever you are now, soon you will be a digital business. The future will be digital because your customers will demand it of you. The sooner you accept that, and start making the moves towards becoming a digital organisation, the easier the process will be for you, your staff and your tenants.

Think digital – not just digital inclusion

If you start the process by thinking about how you are going to become a digital organisation, bringing tenants along with you will be a lot easier. Your digital strategy will have a positive impact across your business, helping you work more efficiently and deliver a better service as well as helping your tenants to become more financially, socially and digitally included.

But remember – it’s a change programme, not a technology one

It’s easy to get consumed with the tools and the technology you’ll want to use to support your new digital business, but to be successful your digital strategy needs to be about winning the hearts and minds and staff and tenants as well as putting the pipes in.

Share your knowledge

Creating a digital strategy from scratch can be pretty daunting, but you’re not the first provider to go through it, and there are plenty of organisations out there who are happy to share their expertise. TheDigital Housing Hub is a great place to start, and you’ll find lots of others who are happy to share tales of what they’ve done, as well as their own digital strategies.

Address the main barriers

We know the main barriers that prevent people from using the internet are motivation, skills and access, so to be successful in supporting your tenants you need to address all three, without overemphasising any of them. It’s easy to see broadband for all as the golden ticket, but without the need to go online, or the skills to use the internet confidently, it’s likely residents will continue to feel excluded. Supporting residents to improve their skills isn’t always easy, but there are organisations who are experts at it, including UK online centres, Digital Unite and Age UK, so seek out advice and support when you need it.

Know your tenants

It’s really important to understand your excluded residents, and target them carefully. If it’s parents of school age children, then supporting them to find school places online or to help their children with learning can be the carrot they need to improve their own skills. Universal credit will be a big stick to encourage tenants to improve their skills, but providing some carrots as well will help makes the journey easier for everyone.

Start quickly – and start now

My main piece of advice, and the one that I think is the most important, is to start quickly and to make small changes today. I’ve seen examples of housing providers moving all payslips online, or giving senior managers tablets to help make their work easier. By taking little steps, and ensuring digital becomes embedded within the organisation, the big steps will feel a lot easier.

 

The Digital Housing Hub also saw it’s 500th member register yesterday, so if you’re working in the social housing sector and want to share what you’re doing or ask questions of others who are in the same position, do go and register today. 

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