UK Online Centres / Online Centres Foundation Annual Review
April 2011 - March 2012

Online Centres Foundation UK Online Centres

Digital organisations

With government embracing digital, and committing to upskilling its citizens so they can access the services they need, it seems inevitable that organisations that haven't will soon make the move to a digital by default means of service delivery.

We have worked with a number of organisations to provide them with support, tools and resources to move their services online, providing significant benefits for customers.

Digital Housing Hub

At the beginning of 2012, we launched the Digital Housing Hub as a new online network to help social housing providers connect with each other and share ideas about how to become digital organisations.

The website (www.digitalhousinghub.ning.com) provides a space where social housing providers can find examples of good practice on implementing their digital strategy, access a wealth of free tools and resources to promote the benefits of being online to tenants, look at key research, build a business case and even find information on low-cost technology.

I've found the Digital Housing Hub a really useful resource for the work we're doing. Not only have I found some great tips to help build the organisation's digital strategy, but I've also been able to network with other providers and get some ideas from them which has been invaluable. I've also been pleased to share my experiences with other site members too.

Andrew Harris, Head of ICT from Cross Keys Homes

Social housing providers

We continue to work closely with Social housing providers, to encourage them to commit to providing and promoting technology for their tenants. Helen Milner continues to head up the Social Housing Providers Digital Inclusion Strategy Group, which exists to help the sector get as many tenants online as possible. This relationship with providers has been strengthened with Online Centres Foundation providing free consultancy to help them build their digital strategies.

Partnership in action: Southern Housing Group and UK online centres

Hundreds of residents from five London housing estates are getting online for the first time thanks to a partnership between UK online centres and social housing association Southern Housing Group (SHG).

Southern Housing Group launched its Computers in Communities project in September 2010 and, using funding from UK online centres, has transformed five community centres into IT hubs offering online access and support for local residents. The centres offer people the chance to get online in a friendly environment with one-to-one support from trained local volunteers.

As well as challenging digital exclusion, the project also tackles the social isolation inherent in many deprived communities. Jarumi Baldeon, Senior Community Regeneration Officer for SHG, says: "We are connecting people to people, as well as to the internet. We've overcome barriers by bringing the internet to residents through community facilities. Our volunteers are from the local community and the IT hubs are right in the middle of our estates. This means we attract people who would never have the confidence to walk into a library or learning centre on the high street."

One person who has really benefited from the project is 52 year old Sandra Nedd. Sandra faced a double challenge when she first walked through the door of the UK online centre on SHG's estate in Stamford Hill - she was new to London and had never used a computer before. Sandra explains:

"I didn't know anything at all about computers, but I was looking for work and knew it would be easier to find a job online. I was nervous when I first went in, but all the tutors are so encouraging, they're really friendly and helpful."

Sandra has now found a part-time cleaning job and the hub has also helped her to feel connected to people close to home and further afield:

"I moved to the UK last year from Montserrat. I don't really have close family and friends in London and it can get very lonely. Being able to go into the hub once or twice a week, and spending time with the girls in there while I learn makes me so happy. I really, really love that place. Being there takes a load off me. I think there's a lot of people who go in there who feel the way I do."

"I've got three children and three grandchildren who all live in Guyana. I used to have to text them to get their news, but now I'm on Facebook I can chat to them all the time and see the latest pictures of my grandkids. It makes me feel closer to them, like I know what's going on. My children are really happy with what I am doing and learning, they're proud of me."