During the last 18 months Digital inclusion challenges have been magnified which has given the team a renewed drive and focus to continue work in this area.
For some people it is issue with devices, for some it is connectivity and for some it is the confidence and training needed to use digital services. Only by being able to address all 3 can this be truly addressed .
Internally within the Council we have challenges with ensuring all colleagues have access to the right tools as all internal systems moving online.
We have a new Digital Inclusion Commitment with a new action plan to drive addressing issues internally and externally working with partners such London Office of Technology Innovation (Loti) and our Local Voluntary Services.
So what is Hounslow doing?
Hounslow now has a Digital Inclusion Group which has met regularly over the last 12 months and there continue to be deliverables across all these areas. This work has been alongside national government initiatives.
Earlier this year the Council supplied 750 devices and 150 dongles to school children – information here: Hundreds of extra laptops for Hounslow pupils | London Borough of Hounslow
The council has signed master wayleave agreements with 2 suppliers and this work includes social value elements and contributions towards connectivity challenges including free connections to community spaces. Further information here: Hounslow signs first full-fibre agreement | London Borough of Hounslow.
Based on current rollout schedule the council through this will be able to provide 300 residents broadband connections for a year and half price connections for another 200& – this is alongside free community wifi connections as part of this work.
Devices and training
The council is recycling laptops to residents – the aim is to complete 700 per year and we have completed the initial pilot. We are also continuing to tie this in with skills and training with the local voluntary services training people to perform this work alongside joint work with our Adult Education teams to provide digital skills.
This is the feedback from two resident journeys which shows the difference this support has made:
- Resident 1
- This resident is a member of a support group who provide activities and support to young people with disabilities.
- He lives independently in sheltered accommodation in the borough.
- He was using a very old desktop computer and was pleased to receive a refurbished laptop which has allowed him to download and play games online.
- This has meant that he can still socialise while in lockdown and can access the zoom activities arranged through the club.
- He has learned how to create youtube videos and uploads regular content for the club.
- Resident 2
- A 65 year old resident, described as not being very computer savvy was referred to our Work Hounslow team for help finding work. Previously, having lost his job, he became homeless and was a year before he found accommodation. He wants to learn to use a computer.
- Work Hounslow arranged to meet with him. Work Hounslow then asked if Learn Hounslow had a laptop he could use as she was aware we do loan them to learners.
- We enrolled him on a short beginner’s digital skills course, and he borrowed a Chromebook. After this he returned the Chromebook, and the voluntary services were able to gift him a reconditioned laptop to use. He initially had difficulty using this as he didn’t realise where he might be able to access free wifi but the team informed him he can access free wifi in some coffee shops and public spaces such as libraries so he is now able to make full use of his new device.