Digital Housing Hub - #digihousing

where social housing providers meet to help their residents embrace the web

I am researching ways and means of getting older people on line in the UK.

My work in UK with older people (55 - 70 year old) has shown that there are a number of barriers.

1/ There is no real enticement for these people to go on line. I have found little difference between attitudes of those in private accommodation, PRS or the social sector of housing to the use of computers to enhance their lifestyle..

2/ The investment in hardware (computer/tablet)  cannot be justified at current pricing

3/The difficulty in working with "windows" software and the cost

4/ The availability of an internet connection.

Whilst it can be demonstrated  the advantages of going on line it is difficult to persuade users. However with the Govt. forthcoming Universal credit it will mean that a sizeable number of people will be at a disadvantage which may influence the take up of this communications media.

Hardware, whist it can be shown that costs are declining, the actual cost is in the region of +£250-00, people on benefits cannot justify this expenditure.

Using communal access to hardware has proved not to be popular with most people wanting to operate in their own homes.

An easy to operate and affordable software which provides the basic needs i.e. email. internet, word processor and Skype is needed. Windows whist a good programme is too complicated with inexperienced users finding the programme difficult to manage.

Whilst broadband connections are readily available the annual cost +/- £250-00 pa is again to costly for the majority of the users. In the case of social housing blocks of flats consideration should be given to the landlord to provide this connection sharing the cost between all residents of the complex.

Finally there is an enormous amount of work being undertaken and it calls for a more co-ordinated approach and the sharing of best practice to make  digital inclusion acceptable

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Hi Alan

I'm not sure where you are getting your information - but I would say confidently that people can get online for *much* less than £250 for hardware. Serviceable refurbished PCs are available for much less than this (£150 and under depending on what sort of warranty you want with it, but you can get them with up to 12mths) and brand new tablets that can do the basics satisfactorily are available for £100 and under, (even under £50 for 7inch tablets although these may be too small for older people,despite the weight advantage) .

Enticements are a trickier matter - they ARE there, but people need help and support  to find them - people need one to one time with them to find out more about their lives and interests - then one can help them with engagement with the internet in a way that is valuable and enriching to them, but I think it most times needs this personalised (read: expensive) method.

Regarding Windows, not sure which version you are talking about or what additional costs (the costs I mentioned, as with the sort of costs you described for new hardware, will include OS). Other options are available anyway - Android is of course inherently simpler and there are a number of simpler Linux distros (free) you can explore, as well as free option Eldy (including all the tools you mentioned) which is specifically designed for older people (some people think an OS for older people is inherently patronising but I'm not going to delve into that argument here!). Chromebooks are a bit more expensive than the options I mentioned above (£200 if you look around, or cheaper for refurbs) and might work well for some.

Re.broadband connections, the Post Office did a survey on the savings to be had online which suggests that being online can be at least cost-neutral (c.£280pa savings for lowest decile income) and I would guess that for many the costs are much less relatively as older people are more likely to have a landline already, so additional cost is fairly small if you shop around.

James I agree that the there are opportunities to lower the cost, but if we are looking at a national programme this could include several thousand individuals so the refurbished market may not be appropriate.

Tablets we are looking at but at the low price end we need to be careful not only about quality but also about operating parameters.

Costs are a major problem to many of those that we are targeting, i.e. those on low income or benefits, with limited income priority for Digital inclusion is not very high by this sector of the population. If we can bring in a system that meets this sector then it could be applied and used across all users.

Windows, in my opinion in its standard form is not really suitable for this application, have a look at Simplicity computers UK "envelope" software which is much easier to use and provides not only the basic needs but could be expandable as users gain more experience.

Broadband connections, the Wheatley Group have got a pilot project underway which addresses the problem of cost and access to those living blocks of flats.

We are making slow but are progressing and there is a demand for a co-ordinated approach by the housing industry.

Hi Alan

Have a look at this for my thoughts on getting people online

I totally agree with you about Windows, it is one of the biggest blocks to Digital Inclusion in my opinion. I have met several people who have abandoned their computers for good because they got a "fatal error message" and assumed that meant the machine was broken.

There are some cheap tablets around, including this one for £30,2817,2453268,00.asp 

As regards a co-ordinated approach. I would have hoped this site would offer that opportunity. But it frustrates me that it has a big membership but low participation.

John Thanks for your response. I am currently looking at this low cost tablet but am concerned about some of the operating problems which affect the unskilled operator, just like windows!

I In uk we are looking at proposals to have a national workshop brining together all those currently involved in DI. The response has been overwhelming which shows that there is a strong need for a co-ordinated approach. Please note that there are many excellent organisations out there but better use could be made of resources and funding to progress DI.

With regards to software have a look at who have developed a suitable software to run on Linux.

If you want a piece of equipment that can be used without any instructions or support at all, then you may be unrealistic in your expectations. Your best bet is probably to look at Eldy which can be installed on PCs and tablets and simplifes the screen and interactions about as much as it is possible to do.

Simplicity is/was, I am 99% certain, based on it and you might need to invest a little time/money in smoothing out rough edges (there is an easily editable language pack .txt file to help do most (all?) of this) but it is free/open source. If you want several 1000 copies, a bit of development time could be budgeted for - or use IT4communities to help you with this maybe? Granted it, may not look as pretty as Simplicity, but nor does it add a premium of £60. If you look on Amazon or Ebay there are a wealth of tablets under £100 - including 8/9/10inch tablets at this price point, the biggest issue may be getting ongoing supply of a specific one as much like other IT equipment, hardware refreshes are short-cycled.

Having said that, curating a standard Android tablet with pre-loaded apps, all with shortcuts and and widgets already configured on the home screen and "cook" a ROM you can then blast out to as many clones as you want, may just do the trick and look slicker!

Google voice seach is a useful thing to major on as well, although obviously creates problems for people who don't have clear diction for various reasons.

But I think there is an insurmountable issue of the fear people have taking stuff out of the box that no software/OS can cure - you need a person there at least for a short while. My fairly IT literate mother in law still has a tendency to leave new things in the box for a while until I, my wife or sister in law are avaialble to hold her hand through it - not just IT, this applies to TVs and stereos too.


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