I’ve just got back from the National Digital Inclusion conference – very, enjoyable. I was particularly interested in the strand on social housing and digital inclusion which has spun off the work chaired by Helen Milner on just that problem.
At the forefront of the case that Social Landlords are key to tackling digital inclusion is that 70% of their tenants do not have internet access at home. It is a figure that appears in the first sentence of the introduction to the Social Housing Providers Digital Inclusion Action Plan 2010 (pdf):
Research shows 70% of people who live in social housing do not use the internet. That means they’re missing out on all the benefits, opportunities and conveniences computers and the internet can provide – essential public services, instant communication, commercial comparisons and online bargains, job searches and applications.
That figure is sourced to the Office of National Statistics, 2008 and it seems that things are changing quickly. Anabel Palmer of Southern Housing Group and Dylan Martlew of Knowle West Media Centre have both recently done research on internet availability in the home of social housing tenants. One found 56% of households are connected, for the other the same figure was 67% with internet access. Listen to them sharing their thoughts on this:
Naturally we would need to check that they are measuring exactly the same but are these numbers an oddity? There’s no reasons to suppose they are. Southern Housing Groups 2008 survey found 30% using the net, which matched the national figure then. Now they find 67% using the net.
It does not mean that there is not important work to be done by social landlords to help close the digital divide (for those who want it closed). Many of their tenants might benefit from much wider use of digital tools – but have never really been exposed to them, or may have barriers to using them.
But it does show how quickly internet access is being taken up by those who see some sense in using it.