Get Online Week: Tackling the digital divide
16 October 2023
This week marks Get Online Week, an annual campaign organised by the Good Things Foundation which helps people to get online safely, confidently, and affordably.
It is estimated that 10.2 million people in the UK lack the basic digital skills needed to use the internet. Unable to connect with loved ones, find job and training opportunities, and access online services such as online banking means people are experiencing digital exclusion, impacting their day-to-day lives.
Marcus Hulme, Director of Places Impact, talks about the work Places for People is doing within our Community to support Customers and their families to remain connected and develop their digital skills.
Support we provide our Customers
We believe every Customer should have the necessary support and opportunities needed to get online and enhance their digital capabilities.
With our services covering a wide range of Customers of all ages and backgrounds, it is a priority to tackle the digital divide that they may be facing, especially those impacted by the current cost of living crisis.
With several government support functions such as job, housing, and welfare benefit applications needing to be completed online, it puts People with limited internet or digital device access at a further disadvantage.
Since April 2023, we have supported over 340 Customers in a range of digital and online initiatives, including working with Vodafone and the Good Things Foundation to provide access to devices (phones, tablets, and computers), sim cards and data to help them keep in touch with friends and family or to access education/job opportunities.
Working in partnership with We are Digital, we offer Customers free 1-to-1 training over the phone with a specialist tutor to support them on how to use their own digital devices and search for important information online such as finding a new home or booking a doctor's appointment.
Another Community engagement initiative that we support is helping our Customers save money on their household bills. We have partnered up with leading Social Enterprise provider Pocket Power which specialises in providing advice and support for Customers on discounts and switches on their phone and broadband bills. Recent pilots of the scheme showed savings of around 15% on broadband.
Our Colleagues at Places for People are dedicated to supporting our Customers in accessing the digital skills they need to live a better life, whilst we regularly conduct surveys and encourage feedback from our Customers to better understand the support they need.
Find out more about the support we provide and the services we signpost our Customers to.
The impact on our Customers
We recently supported a Customer who requested a phone so that they could contact their relatives and medical or emergency services. Through our Digital Kit initiative, we initially provided a smartphone, that came loaded with unlimited calls and data, but the Customer found the smartphone to be confusing and slightly overwhelming.
As we aimed to Do the Right Thing, our team swapped the smartphone for a mobile phone that had large buttons which made it easier for the Customer to see the keys and dial the number. The Customer now has a phone that suits their needs and is happier to have a device that allows them to contact his local GP and keep in touch with family.
We also had a case where 3 asylum-seekers who were living in our supported accommodation and had recently enrolled in college and needed devices to take part in their courses and complete their assignments. We were able to supply the Customers with tablets and SIM cards, which has really helped them in their education and further learning.
More needs to be done
We understand that more needs to be done within our Communities to support our Customers and tackle the digital divide and exclusion they may be facing. Get Online Week highlights that digital initiatives such as access to the internet or communication devices should be seen as essential when providing people with homes.
Our role is to provide the support that helps our Customers thrive in their Community, and digital access plays an important role in achieving this as it helps people stay connected with their friends and family, access vital government information and look for career, education, and training opportunities.
We will continue to find useful avenues both internally and with partnership work that will give our Customers every chance to develop their digital skills and help them ‘get online’.