The pandemic has shown us that getting people online, keeping them online and enabling them to get the most benefits of being online is a national priority.
The benefits span across cost savings, better education and employment opportunities, and enhanced wellbeing from social inclusion to name a few.
However, vulnerable members of society are disproportionally being affected with digital poverty, and this has been exacerbated by the current cost of living crisis. Recent research from the Citizens Advice Bureau outlines that millions of families across the UK are facing financial crisis this year. The charity analysed average income data against household spend on essentials like rent, bills, and food to establish how many families can meet their living costs. Its research found that one in ten families - equivalent to 3.2 million households - are facing financial crisis this winter.
With these challenging economic headwinds, with food, fuel, energy bills all going up, it has never been more important to ensure that vulnerable members of our society do not slip further into digital poverty. Data from the ONS outlines that11 million people in the UK are digitally excluded and of those, around a third are living in social housing. Ofcom data outlines that groups most likely to be at risk of digital exclusion were those aged 75 and over (26%), those in DE households (14%) 14 and those who were not working (13%).
Here at Hyperoptic, we have been working hard to bridge the digital divide since our inception over ten years ago. We now work with over 50 councils to install our full fibre infrastr8ucture across their social housing stock, which has enabled us to connect hundreds of thousands of social housing homes and give them the gold standard of connectivity. We have also connected over 400 community centres for free, so that everyone in the community has access to a gigabit connection that’s local to them.
We are also investing in research to get under the skin of how to alleviate digital poverty in social housing. Our first paper, “Understanding the Impact of Hyperfast Broadband” helped us understand the positive impact hyperfast broadband can have on communities and uncovered what it means for social value generation. Our second paper, “The Future of Social Housing” looked at how digital transformation, connected devices and smart technologies can, and will, support the digital transformation process that is critical to the success of Social Housing industry in the next ten years.
Our latest paper, which we developed in partnership with the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust, outlines solutions for breaking the cycle of digital poverty in Britain. It features research with 40+ social housing organisations and 250+ decision makers, and interviews with eight subject matter experts. The paper explores the results of this research to identify specific impacts on social housing tenants and thereby recommend interventions to support social housing tenants with overcoming the barriers to digital inclusion.
Crucially, the paper draws together examples of best practice relating to these interventions to create a set of recommendations for social housing organisations, covering short-, medium-, and long-term solutions to digital poverty.