BT helps housing associations deliver digital inclusion
9 October 2014
Housing associations can now easily offer cost-effective internet connections and devices to their tenants, with the launch of a new shared internet service from BT Business, specifically designed for them.
The service delivers an internet connection, which could include shared access between residents to reduce monthly rental costs and an affordable device, as well as offering training and support for tenants.
As BT supplies the service to the housing association, they can choose the best option for each facility – whether that’s charging on a per unit basis or making Wi-Fi available in communal areas, in the case of care homes. As a result, tenants will gain easy access to the internet, without having to worry about things like credit checks and many housing associations will include installation costs in their pricing.
The new offering has been developed as part of BT’s Connected Society programme, spreading access to the internet and helping people to develop the skills and confidence they need to make the most of it.
As a part of the product development, the BT Business team has worked closely with housing associations and related organisations over a number of years in order to understand exactly what they and their tenants need.
Graham Sutherland, CEO at BT Business, said: “There are currently 6.4 million adults in the UK that have never used the internet, with 4.1 million of those in social housing. This not only affects their employment prospects and access to education, but also how they gain access to essential services. As a result, it’s crucial that they have access to go online – and that’s why we’re working with housing associations to help ensure those on low incomes or who are unemployed, elderly or disabled have access to the internet.”
Richard Troote, head of ICT Wales & West Housing said: “There are a number of drivers for us to provide internet at home to our residents, including the forthcoming implementation of Universal Credit, which means people have to be online – or at least have access to the internet. There are also a number of barriers that, until now, have prevented many residents from having broadband at home. Working with BT Business has allowed us to go a long way towards eliminating those and provide cost-effective internet access, as well as the training and technical support our tenants need.”
BT has been working with the Wheatley Group and the Scottish Government to offer affordable Wi-Fi access to more than a hundred households in one of Glasgow Housing Association’s multi-story properties at Kirkton Avenue.
The initiative won ‘ICT Connect Award 2014 – Connecting Citizens’, and used the Arcuos 97 Google Chrome Book to allow 138 homes to access high speed Wi-Fi throughout the building, linking back into the main BT network via a single BTnet connection.
As a result of the scheme, two thirds of tenants are actively seeking employment online, with four per cent gaining employment in the first six months of the study. A third of tenants also believe they saved money as a result of internet access, with 65 per cent saving more than £100, according to the Wheatley Group, the parent of the Glasgow Housing Association.