I'm the Digital Inclusion project manager at the Hyde Group, and current chair of the Connected Housing Inititaive (CHI), a group of RSLs working to help develop and share kit and connectivity offers available to social housing residents .
The CHI is made up of 13 housing associations who came together last year because we all felt there was a ‘missing piece’ in our digital inclusion activities – affordable and flexible kit and connectivity options. In the digital inclusion world, a lot of us are delivering great digital skills project, but beyond short-term and small-scale offers, the same can’t be said for kit and connectivity solutions.
We knew we couldn't solve this issue ourselves, (and as social landlords not ISPs or hardware providers it isn’t our role to), but we thought that if we could combine our experiences and expertise to help the commercial sector understand our residents better, they might come up with better solutions.
So, with support from the GDS, the GLA and Digital Unite, we held an event at City Hall in September, inviting lots of ISPs and kit providers to think about the market opportunity within social houisng, and the needs of our residents (eg. lower costs, no-contracts, flexible payment options).
Since then we've held meetings with 8 suppliers discussing their offers in depth, and digging down into the nitty gritty of these solutions in practice. Some offer services direct to residents (eg. Happus £11.85 a month unlimited broadband) and others to residents via housing organisations at no installation cost (eg. Optimity using their antenna on our rooftops).
It’s been an interesting process so far, and most suppliers have used the meetings as a real opportunity to listen and adapt, rather than just offer a sales pitch. We've published detailed profiles of these offers, and our thoughts on their pros and cons, on a new web resource this week.
Please have a look at the site and register your interest so we can keep you up to date on our activities.
Our aim as a group is to keep meeting with suppliers and sharing our knowledge gained via the webpages so that other housing associations and organisations can benefit.
We have another round of meetings with 6 suppliers in April, and are finding that a lot of suppliers are approaching us with ideas of how they can develop their offers to be more suitable for social housing residents. Watch this space!
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