Society Has Digital Transformed, But It Isn’t Evenly Distributed

We often blame innovations for the way they make our lives faster, busier, more intrusive, but in reality our core human behaviours and beliefs are slow to change.

Marchetti’s constant, named after Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti, is the principle that humans settled on a 30 minute commute time to work long ago, and no matter how much we innovate transport systems we rarely break it.

This nearly universal rule of human behaviour has been observed since Roman times. Whenever a new technology (the horse and cart, the tram, the train, the car, the plane) arrives that gets people to work at ever faster speeds, towns and cities typically grow outward in a donut formation, but not so far that commutes expand past one hour per day.

From Rome in AD 275 to Atlanta in 2010 our commute times have remained stable at 30 minutes, despite commutable distances growing substantially.

Therefore most workers have been tied to the city – until now.

In a brilliant and fateful piece written just before the pandemic Jonathan English writes that the greatest promise for matching technology to the modern worker has always been the idea of divorcing work from transportation entirely: telecommuting. 

The pandemic and our subsequent digital transformation has disrupted this pattern. As the folk at Quartz describe, post-Covid people who work in-person once or twice a week may be willing to tolerate a much longer commute. The 30-minute preference Marchetti observed likely has to do with time-budgeting rather than animal instincts, says English. But if you’re working from home most days of the week, that changes the math for the first time in history.

The fact it took a global health crisis to make us think about the cost of commuting is rather sad, and is picked apart in an excellent Twitter thread from James Plunkett.

I agree with him that this is”the best and most concrete example yet of a society-wide digital transformation playing out”. This is something we need to reflect upon, he notes, as when you do digital transformation in an organisation you use a whole set of tools and mechanisms to design a system and manage the change.

Society was afforded no such luxury. There were no Change Consultants or Project Managers – the transformation happened pretty much overnight. Over a third of us switched to working from home, shops converted to digital payments (in some cases switching off cash completely), a whole new demographic learned to order shopping online. The most basic establishments developed an app. Even QR codes made a comeback.

I rarely use cash but this week I was in Northern Ireland doing a talk on this very subject , and on arrival at the venue I paid the taxi driver with a £20 note. He looked at me quizzically and said “wow, we never use this anymore.” For one moment I thought they’d changed their currency.

Pay the wifi, heat the home or feed the kids?

The problem , and there is one, is this digital transformation has been anything but equal. In fact it has built on pre-existing inequalities, and even deepened some.

For instance, not all children had at-home internet access or WFH laptop parents able to homeschool them . Thousands of children (some suggest 130,000) in the UK never returned to education after the schools reopened. Worldwide the number could be 10 million although that figure seems wildly conservative given 5 million won’t return in Uganda alone.

There are similar inequalities at the other end of the age spectrum. Analysis from Age UK shows that the pandemic has not in fact produced a sea-change in over 75’s use of digital technology. In fact it has now turned into a kind of ‘digital deprivation’ as many services have shifted exclusively online.

Whilst over half of adults in the 25–34 age group say they would be willing to turn to digital means for all their spending, only 20% of over 65’s have a positive view of a cashless society. As ATMs become less used and disappear 50% of people report having problems accessing cash.

Also many of our organisations have still not shown ourselves to be digitally capable. Polling suggests a third of people are unconvinced about the long-term use of digital in the NHS amid a need for reassurance about data security.

So whilst we have undoubtedly digitally transformed our society , it is anything but evenly distributed. Many people were simply not ready to be transformed.

The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated digital inequality and the gaps that still exist in digital access and capability. Therefore we need to begin a dialogue about how can we achieve a more equitable digital transformation that takes in both age and income related inequalities.

We finally went digital, but for some people it doesn’t feel any better.


Photo by Jadon Kelly on Unsplash

Can I Borrow A Cup Of Wi-Fi?

2013-01-09 10.58.38 I’m on holiday. I’m flicking through Twitter and sipping a beer in a village bar. Outside, some Thai kids are playing a game on the smartphone they’ve borrowed from their Mum. Locals pop in every so often to sit down , catch up on gossip and read their emails.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Here I am – on a small island that’s nearly 50% rainforest. The roads are awful and it’s only accessible by a boat. It has no 3G. And it has better publicly available wi-fi than parts of Birmingham or Manchester. Pretty much every residence , every bar , every business. Kids with no access at home sit on the steps of neighbours to use their phones. At any one time you can pick up 2 or 3 networks – without any painful email registration.

Why doesn’t it work like this back home?

Of the last three places I visited in the UK one had no wi-fi at all, one had a pay system (criminally – £15 for 24 hours) and one offered a “30 Minutes free” service. The latter, Manchester Airport, then provide a registration procedure so user-unfriendly that you could spend 26 of your free minutes negotiating it.

If the internet is the fourth utility – why are we making it so difficult for people to get online? IMG_0395 Last week saw another report that mentioned the high number of Social Housing residents excluded from the internet. (As an aside –  I reckon every Housing Association tenant must have filled in at least 3 Digital Inclusion questionnaires in the last two years. We could have solved this ages ago if we’d used all the money for the surveys to buy people a smartphone each instead.)

Seriously – one part of the solution to exclusion is to make freely available wi-fi ubiquitous. And really easy to log on.  That is important. My Mother, and others like her who are not confident online,  will never use any service that requires registration. 

It’s time that all service providers , not just Housing Associations , realise they have a role to play in improving mobile connectivity.

Do most businesses really think of the Internet as the “fourth utility”? As important as water?

If you walked into a business and they asked you to register your email account and set up a password just so you use their tap water you would be surprised , yes? But that’s what many businesses expect us to do to get online.  And some still have no access at all. It’s becoming unacceptable.

Barclays have just announced a roll-out to all their branches.  Many of our larger supermarkets have turned their cafe area’s into Wi-Fi Zones – which can then double up as vital community hubs. But not all have embraced this – Sainsburys recently announced they were dropping their plans. Some have said this is because businesses can’t work out how they can properly monetise internet provision. But why do we feel the need to monetise access to the internet any differently to other utilities?

A new study entitled – Can I Borrow A Cup Of Wi-Fi? – looks at the emergence of a very different mobile customer. It reveals 40% percent of mobile device owners are “community” users—people who use their device in a friend’s home on regular basis. Like borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbour – connectivity is now shareable. If a friend came to yours for dinner and asked for your Wi-Fi , you surely wouldn’t ask them for a couple of quid as contribution?

Businesses should take note before we start turning away.

In that small village in Thailand they had solved the problem of digital exclusion. It was achieved not by commissioning a report about it , but by engaging businesses , sharing resources and working together to get a solution for the community.

Sometimes it just doesn’t need to be complicated.

The Connected Homeless

homeless2“It’s amazing how nice their Smartphones are. Some would actually go without food rather than lose their Smartphone.”

This quote is from a manager of a homelessness hostel.  Someone who has observed up close that, for the Connected Generation , staying in touch with their networks isn’t a luxury- it’s a necessity.

This isn’t something particularly new. Many reports have established that homeless people are making use of online networks to find shelter, food , and to keep in touch with relatives. And there are examples of the homeless starting online support groups as a very practical means of staying in touch with each other.

This week I helped out on a project to develop a digital hub and social network for the homeless. Mobile and social technology give us unprecedented opportunities to reach out to the most marginalised in society.

The research has identified that under 25 year old homeless are “highly proficient” in the use of social networks to maintain contact with relatives and friends. Additionally smartphone ownership amongst the single homeless is becoming pervasive “regardless of circumstance”.

But it also identifies that existing service provision often isn’t equipped to engage online.

 “Why can’t I be on Facebook? I have as much right to that as anyone else. Just because I am homeless does not mean that I don’t care about this stuff, you know? My family is on Facebook. My friends are on Facebook. People who care about me are on Facebook.”

Some of us will find the concept of homeless people spending time on social networks and possessing smartphones as puzzling.  Have they got their priorities right?

It’s because we can’t truly imagine the trauma of becoming homeless and the things we would hold onto when we have lost pretty much everything else.  For many people – the phone is no longer a phone. It’s a small computer containing address details of friends and family, photographs of loved ones , and diary notes describing important memories. It’s a very personal item.

Additionally many of us have a false perception of the cost of smartphones.  We often still think of it as expensive technology.  But you could be paying as little as £10 per month for a decent phone and data plan. That’s less than the price of a Costa Coffee each week. If you were homeless , which would you choose?

Many public service organisations don’t realise that they are missing out on huge opportunities to engage with groups that would have previously been classified “hard to reach”.  That’s not just the homeless , but ex-offenders, young people not in education or employment , people with multiple health needs. The list could go on.

But whilst it’s revealed that many of the homeless have access to the latest digital resources , the organisations and professionals they have to deal with sometimes do not. There is still a lack of access to Social Media.  As one person I spoke to commented, “How can I tailor services to the homeless on Facebook when Facebook is still seen as a time waster by my manager?”

Then there are repeated stories of internet access to “sensitive” sites being blocked. One IT Manager was quoted as saying the company firewall is “doing it’s job well ” by preventing access to a site on HIV prevention.

But even more common is the story of front line practitioners without the tools to do the job. Using basic phones that can’t text properly never mind access the web.

John Popham has written about this in his blog – correctly asserting that organisations who don’t equip staff are “sending people out to do their jobs with both hands tied behind their back.”

There is a huge irony here – the “hard to engage” are no longer the customers and service users.  It’s us. The service providers.

In 2012 – a Smartphone ceased to be a luxury. It’s not a gadget – it’s a completely new interface for staff and service users to engage , collaborate and design better services.

If the homeless get that , why don’t we?

Getting People Online (Lessons from my Mother)

On my recent holiday a surprising thing happened. Two emails from my Mom.

From my Mom. Who , 9 months ago,  had never been online. I’m proud. But it’s been a difficult journey.

This post is not about having a laugh at the expense of older people online. It’s an attempt to capture some of my learnings.

There is a lot of rubbish talked about Digital by Default.  Yes – the Internet is a place that can unite us , inspire us and enable us to learn things never before possible.

But to many people their perception is the exact opposite. It’s a place where your identity gets stolen , where people monitor everything you do, and where you can get bullied.

These are my top learnings (Introduced by my Mom):

“Can I use the phone at the same time as the laptop?”

New Laptop. Decent Broadband. Introductory lesson on using the Internet by loving Son. All sorted, right? Wrong.

Digital Inclusion goes further than just giving people the kit. Any strategy we have that is based purely upon increasing access for users is a complete waste of time. It’s about digital literacy.

Getting online is a huge and scary journey for a lot of people.  Principally because of the myths we (yes, WE) have created around it. A lot of hand holding is needed – little and often.

By the way  – similar to driving lessons, giving tuition to family members will test your patience. According to my Mom “the internet has broken” at least weekly during 2012.

 “Why do I need to go to the bank on the internet? I go to the bank on the bus”

People only see the benefits of being online if it makes their life better. If it helps them do something they previously found difficult.

My Mom’s bank is currently encouraging her to use their online service. She simply doesn’t want to.

For her – going to the bank is a social experience she combines with meeting friends in town. Why would she need to do it online? Plus – internet banking can be needlessly complex.

It’s the same as housing associations or local authorities trying to get people to channel shift to online. Unless it enhances the user experience (for them – not you) then just forget it. It won’t work. It just won’t work.

 “I think I’ve got a virus again”

The very well meaning , but largely misguided , commentators on internet privacy have achieved one thing: They have terrified an entire generation of non-users into believing the INTERNET IS BAD. If Google want to refine their search engine through predicting behaviour – and it helps people like my mom cut through the noise – I’m fine with it.  Be safe online , yes , and protect our freedoms – but let us not exaggerate the risks.

 “I’m not going on Faceman – I don’t want people to know what I’m doing”

Despite the statistics – not everyone is on Facebook. In fact – a lot of people hate social networking. So lets stop pushing it to those who don’t want it.

As more of us live and share our lives online , non social networking family members face a greater chance of missing out.  When I did a Skydive over the summer and shared it online, I was getting congratulations from people who I have never met. The two people I really wanted to see it , my Mom and Dad – were excluded.

I’m really interested in services like Mindings – that aim to bring social networking to the disconnected. Far better than forcefeeding Facebook.

By the way – my Mom’s assessment of Twitter – “It’s just looks like lots and lots of lines. With people talking rubbish” – could well become the new Wikipedia definition.

 “Downton Abbey? On the laptop? Really?”

The way to get people excited about being online is to play to their interests. What do they like doing and how can online enhance that experience? Getting someone who loves TV to learn laptop controls by using iPlayer is far better than demonstrating the joys of renewing insurance.

One more thing.  About five months in I was talking with a colleague who had a breakthrough getting their 80 year old mother online by shifting from laptop to tablet. I’m not an Apple fanboy but one thing they do get is the absolute focus on customer experience rather than the technology. Usability is key.

Two days after switching my mom to my old iPad – I got this text:

That word. “Love”.

It’s what its all about.

Digital Myths

How confident are you using the internet? On a scale of 1 to 10. And how confident would you say the average user of social housing is?

Last week , I posted about the myth of social housing residents and digital inclusion.

How 99% of our new customers said they had the ability to access the internet either at home or in the community.

And 35% had used a mobile to access online services.

The thrust of my argument was that the real challenge wasn’t access , but digital literacy and confidence. But some new research being done by my colleague Vicky Green challenges the extent to which social tenants feel that their online skills are a barrier.

Of the last 300 customers to join Bromford – over 60% rated their digital confidence at 8 out of 10 or above.

35% said they were a perfect 10. 

That’s an astonishing untapped resource. Like finding out that our communities are built on an oil reservoir.

Let’s get the back of a fag packet out….

Statisticians turn away now…

  • Suppose there are 250,000 new social tenants each year.
  • And suppose the stat’s are grounded in reality – that would make 150,000 highly internet confident tenants moving in every 12 months.
  • And nearly 90,000 of them would rate themselves as a perfect 10.
  • And every year , the numbers would increase.

Now imagine we could make a deal with those people. A customer deal – that you agree to when you access our homes.

We give you access to the huge resources available across UK Housing. You share your skills with the wider community. Together we destroy the myth of social housing customers as digital illiterates.

In return for your help we do everything we can to encourage access to the range of jobs and opportunities that are dependent on IT skills.  And , with a UK Internet economy worth over £200billion by 2016 – that will be quite a lot.

Is that a fantasy? Any more so than saying the “vast majority of social residents have no access to the internet?”

We need to stop re-enforcing the myths and start talking up the opportunities.

Don’t believe the numbers? I’d be the first to admit they won’t be statistically comparable with all landlords. And they do only include those of working age.

But even if the numbers are exaggerated by 50% – we could still miss out on the opportunity to engage a quarter of a million Perfect 10’s accessing social housing over the next 5 years.

And that would be negligence bordering on the criminal.

The Great Divide?

Residents of social housing are , pretty much , excluded from access to the internet. If you believe everything you read.

Grant Shapps MP once said Social Housing tenants live in a “digital apartheid”

Martha Lane Fox has said that “Almost half” of the UK’s adult population who do not use the internet live in social housing.

This week Jake Berry MP  went even further-saying the ‘vast majority’ of people living in social housing have no access.

So what are we to make of this?

Of the last 300 working age customers to join Bromford , 99% said they DO have access.

My conclusion? None of us have any idea what we are talking about. Me included.

Talking about this on Twitter yesterday made me even more certain that these statistics could be leading us up the wrong path:

Boris Worrall shared some of the work Orbit are doing – which indicates that far from being a “vast majority” – about a third of residents remain offline.

This comment from Nick Atkin pretty much goes to the heart of the matter. We are still obsessed on counting fixed access in the home in a world that’s gone mobile.

Kingsley Iball made the great point that there are huge knowledge gaps in some users of smartphones about their capabilities.

Broadband. Mobile. Wifi. 3G. 4G. The problem for UK Housing is many of our customers don’t understand this. People simply aren’t sure whether they have access or not.

And the drive to get everyone online can disguise the real challenge. Digital literacy.

“If you want to work on the core problem, it’s early school literacy.” 

 – James Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape

Both my Mom and Dad have “access”. In the home. Decent broadband. Good kit. But they are a world away from being the 21st Century “Digital Citizen”. Dad can check the Wolves scores and Mom can find Waterloo Road on iPlayer. That is pretty much it.

We need a different dialogue with social housing customers.

It’s why every new Bromford Customer now gets a Skills Assessment – including online capability.  It’s a plan that we will start rolling out to existing customers. And we will use the people best placed to do it – members of the community that have seen the benefits of life online.

There are real barriers against access to the internet , most notably in rural communities and amongst the elderly.

But let us get our facts right and make sure we solve the right problem.

Two things you can’t say on Twitter…..

There are two opinions that are definite no-go zones amongst the liberal left twitterati.

Opinions that , if you were to express them openly , could see you banished to the most remote, uninhabited and hostile parts of the social media planet.(Linkedin…..or even worse, Google+)

What are they?

1 – Saying you think the NHS is a bit wasteful really and maybe reform isn’t a totally bad idea

And

2 – Saying that despite the economy being tough –  you think that there are jobs out there

Well , I feel like starting the week with a bang. So I’m going to say that , I , Paul Taylor , believe that there are jobs out there.

OK – before you press “unfollow” let me explain:

  • There are millions of jobs that have yet to be invented. I’m not going to expand that point here. You can read my previous blog on this. In fact if anyone knows a window cleaner who also cleans the house/irons clothes/and cuts hair please pass on my details.I’m recruiting.
  • There are jobs – but often people don’t feel they have any skills , or feel terrified at the prospect of even applying.
  • There are jobs – but people get fed up of applying when they get zero feedback and never hear anything about their application.
  • And even in the area’s where jobs are very few -there are loads of volunteering and training opportunities that provide people with confidence , and improve their skills.

Very very few people don’t want to work – just sometimes it looks like it’s too much of a challenge. It feels like they will never make it.

Today see’s the launch of a new project that I am proud to be part of.

Connect , as we call it , opens it doors today as a private beta site. It’s a Social Network for Jobs, Skills and Opportunities. A virtual marketplace for the user to share their skills and develop their confidence , and get access to priority work opportunities. And it will also offer loads of volunteering positions, and give access to innovators who might just help people develop the next big idea. The jobs of the future.

We want it to be a supportive community which is about hope rather than despair. It’s about helping everyone be the very best they can be.

Initially all new Bromford tenants and their families will be given access to Connect. Additionally they can access a Skills Coach, whose job it is to inspire them to do the things that they thought they couldn’t. Whether its getting online for the first time , or preparing for an interview – we are hoping we can remove some of the many barriers that people face as they enter or return to work.

We’ll be letting you know how its going here and on the Connect Blog.

If you haven’t unfollowed me, of course.

A Design For Life – The Customer Deal – New Blog


It’s not often you get the chance to go back to the start. To redesign your customer experience from the beginning of the relationship

About a year ago we started talking to customers about their part in our service offer.

We had worked with them to develop a new Bromford Offer – based on the experiences of thousands of customers. It had nothing to do with regulation but everything to do with making sense of what customers had told us mattered to them.

As we developed the offer a lot of time was spent discussing what WE – as a business – wanted from our customers. What constituted the ideal customer relationship? And how could we shape it? What would need to change?

The Customer Deal, as we call it, begins today in a series of demonstration projects before a full launch to all new customers in April next year. I’m going to be blogging what works and what doesn’t. What it looks and feels like to a customer. And whether it makes a difference to us as a business.

This week though I’m going to be looking at the four elements of the Deal that we think will make it unique for our customers:

1 – A Fair Deal

Tomorrow I’ll be blogging about how we worked with customers to decide where our service starts and where it stops. And I’ll look at the elements of service that require complete co-operation from customers for us to be successful.

2- An Aspirational Deal

On Wednesday I’ll post about how we want every new customer relationship to be one of opportunity. How moving into, or buying, one of our homes should give the customer the very best social opportunity.

3 – A Transparent Deal

On Thursday we’ll take a look at how we will regularly review our offer with each and every customer. Including how the relationship is working , what it costs and where its headed.

4 – A Digital Deal

To close the week I want to outline how we are going to be really serious about tackling digital exclusion. Every new customer will sign up to a “digital deal” – with online communication being the default position.

As part of the blog going forward we’ll be asking other people to contribute – those providing the service and the customers receiving it. So we can shape it together and make it last for life.

See you tomorrow

Are we ready for the rise of the untethered customer? Blog update #ukhousing

“What is a smartphone anyway?” I was asked by a colleague this week. I broke into a cold sweat. Especially as it was during a meeting about digital inclusion.

If this is the kind of question you hear asked often, you need to start worrying. Now.

I love working in housing. Genuinely. But whilst we debate whether the Right to Buy is a a good thing, what level of Affordable Rent is affordable  – we miss out on some things that maybe , just maybe , we should be talking about as well.

Such as. We are in the midst of a revolution in the way customers interact and engage with us – the likes of which we have never seen before in the history of the human race.

Is that enough hyperbole for you?

In his book “The Third Screen – Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile” , Chuck Martin introduces the concept of a customer who is untethered – literally let loose – from the restrictions previously placed on them by service providers.

The development of smartphone technology and digital mobility will usher in an era where the customer – not the company – is in control. Access on the go. When the customer wants it. Error Free. No Delay. 24/7

And its already happening.

Are we ready for a distracted customer who values their mobile more than they value television or food? Don’t be dismissive of that by the way – you have probably already glanced at a mobile device in the past hour. Or you are reading from one right now.

Some questions we need to ask ourselves.

  • There are more mobile phones in the UK than people. But how much time do we spend talking about mobile solutions compared with people problems?
  • Actual quote for you. “The problem with old people – those over 21 – is they still use email”. Are we prepared for doing business with a generation conditioned to 24hour SMS and Social Media communication?
  • How does a landlord integrate themselves in a customers social network stream? Do we want to?
  • What does a Skype debt management intervention look like?  Or ASB interview ? Live at midnight on a Saturday – as  it occurs.
  • How can Social Learning Communities get a tenant ready to cope with their first home, reduce repairs expenditure or aid greater access to employment and volunteering?
  • In a world post Google Wallet – how can Smart phones fulfill other everyday functions? Door-keys? Top up Utility Meters?
  • What about  Communities led by (tenant) digital champions? The housing version of  the TripAdvisor “destination experts”?
The advent of Smartphone technology and the untethered mobile customer offers us unprecedented opportunities to engage with customers in a way we never have before.

Ignore them and they will ignore us.

Bridging The Digital Divide – Blog Update. #digitalbritain

Met with BT and Citizens Online yesterday as part of our project to get 100% of our communities online – and doing business with us online –  by 2016. ( Blogs are brilliant – I just completely made that target up , but its my blog so who says it can’t  be true?)

What we want to enable for customers is a journey that takes the digitally excluded from entry point right the way through to being a confident – and responsible –  user.

My problem with the rush to get people online is how they are going to be supported once they are there. Anyone can bung people a bit of technology but getting them to use it properly is another thing.

Someone's Grandmother

Sonic

It reminds me of when Sonic the Hedgehog came out on the Sega Megadrive. Me and my brother had great fun by giving the controller to my grandmother and convincing her she was playing the game – when actually it was just the demo screen running on automatic. How we laughed as she frantically wrenched the joypad this way and that –  totally convinced she was in contol of the onscreen action.

She probably died thinking she was pretty good at Sonic – when in fact she hadn’t collected a single power ring.

So the project is not just about “getting Bromford customers online” , but getting customers doing something useful online that will make a difference to their lives. It will be about  training on sourcing your shopping quickly and cheaply, getting low cost insurance ,gaining affordable credit, finding jobs and skills opportunities, and developing a social network.

Only by being able to do those things confidently on their own will lead customers to do more business with Bromford online.

Project E-bromford…….Broadband Pilot

Pilot aims to get 200 households onto low cost broadband

Some great news to start the week.

We’ve just heard that we have been chosen along with Newport City Homes to be amongst the first UK trialists in a project to provide housing association customers with low cost internet access. The idea is that BT will provide equipment, installation, support and an internet package. Microsoft will supply a free copy of Windows 7 and UK online will provide the training.

Our team will be identifying 200 possible homes we can use in the pilot and if it is a sustainable model we could well roll it out to many more. Early days yet but might lead to something special.

Bridging The Digital Divide….Blog Update

 
Had a good chat yesterday with Solitaire Pritchard , who despite her name , is not a Bond Girl , but works in regeneration at Newport City Homes.
 
Like us they are really interested in doing more business with customers online and the greater opportunities it brings them.
 
Like us their intelligence is sketchy about the actual internet access amongst the customer base.
 
We are both currently looking at a pilot to bring internet access and training to 400 families who are currently excluded. The project will look at the reasons for exclusion, the barriers to getting online but provide some practical solutions to broadband provision , training and provision of IT.

It’s not a hand out though. Both of us are looking at what a social enterprise/business start up could look like that delivers the project – but also creates some employment and training outcomes.

Watch this space for updates

Bridging the Digital Divide – Project e-Bromford

I read an article today about “apple babies”. That’s kids under the age of two who automatically try to use a touch screen when handed a phone, conditioned as they are to expect that if something has a screen it should be capable of manipulation. There are clips on YouTube of japanese kids trying frantically to change TV channels by swiping the screen with their hands- the same things they can do with things like Xbox Kinect, Wii and PlayStation Move.

But this can seem a world away when you work in social housing.

FACT: Only a tiny percentage of our customers do any online business with us. We have very little knowledge of their internet habits , smartphone use, social networks

FACT: We have customers – in their thirties and younger- who attend work clubs, who have no access to the internet, never used it, and look at a mouse the same way one of those Japanese kids would look at a typewriter. Excluded from work as well as technology – they exist in a genuine digital divide

I’ve started this blog as I’m working on a number of projects that depend upon our customers dealing with us online.

These include:

  • A new customer deal – where we want customers to self serve , and be less reliant on us
  • A social media project – where we want to tap into communities via facebook , twitter and google +
  • Our Social Investment/Enterprise proposition – which aims to get 2000 residents into work by 2016. Primarily through an online application matching their profiles to opportunities
I’ll be blogging here about the things we learn along the way – the successes and the failures as we try to bridge the digital divide.
Not the reality for many Social housing users
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