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Glasgow publishes draft digital housing strategy

Reducing digital exclusion, improving connectivity and citizen services are part of the plan

Glasgow City Council (GCC) has published a draft digital housing strategy focusing on how digital technology can be used to improve service delivery and the lives of city dwellers.

Developed in partnership with registered social landlords (RSLs) and other housing partners, the document outlines the opportunities and challenges across the four identified themes of the plan: data, digital inclusion, systems and services, and technology.

Benefits associated with boosting digital adoption in housing outlined in the strategy include improved access to housing-related services, better engagement with tenants and communities through online platforms, and gathering data, which is believed to be useful in informing business plans or activity.

To achieve the goals of the digital housing plan, which links to the city’s housing strategy and the Digital Glasgow initiative, the improvement of connectivity and addressing hurdles relating to access of online services in Glasgow have been mentioned as key themes.

Still on digital inclusion, the strategy found 65% of households living in Glasgow’s affordable housing units have broadband in their homes. Within the remaining 35% of those who remain digitally excluded, factors cited include affordability, lack of motivation or reluctance, and not having the required skills. Some 69% of landlords reported offering to lend broadband equipment to their tenants.

Findings of the digital housing strategy document also included the impact of the implementation of Universal Credit (UC), which has prompted increased digital support to help tenants manage their claims and pay rent on time.

Beyond reducing digital exclusion, challenges to be addressed by Glasgow’s digital housing plan include enhancing digital infrastructure, expanding the provision of digital services, implementing digital housing technologies, improving the collection, analysis and display of data through digital platforms, and providing resources and meeting the costs of delivering improved services and implementing technology.

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Regarding data, the plan noted that 53% of RSLs collect data on their tenants’ use of digital services. They collect other types of data in various formats, and the strategy noted that collection, storage and analysis of that data could be done in a standardised manner, and inform business plans and improve services.

On systems and services, most social landlords in Glasgow offer some services online, such as reporting a repair or paying rent. The strategy also noted that about 94% of RSLs use social media to communicate with their tenants.

Other points relating to technology raised in the strategy include a reported interest from 72% of RSLs to use of internet of things (IoT) technology in their homes. Half of the social landlords in Glasgow are looking to upgrade their housing management system in future.

In terms of challenges and opportunities, the draft priorities of the digital housing plan are expanding the range of housing services that are available online, reducing the number of households living in Glasgow that are digitally excluded, as well as enhancing the collection, analysis and display of data using digital systems.

In addition, the strategy will seek to deliver an effective partnership working to implement digital technology, as well as improve connectivity and online services that will improve the lives of Glasgow’s citizens. The plan also intends to contribute towards reducing levels of deprivation, and promote health and wellbeing.

Actions to deliver

The draft strategy includes actions to deliver on the priorities set out in the plan, including work with partners to reduce digital exclusion with training, affordable broadband and/or technology, and working towards increasing fibre broadband connectivity to existing properties and new-build homes.

Moreover, the city will develop a digital housing guide outlining best practice relating to promoting digital inclusion, implementing new systems and online services, new technology, and collecting and managing data.

The city will also work closer to social landlords to improve digital systems, services, use of technology and the gathering of data. A digital common housing register should also be created to improve access to housing, data collection and the delivery of online services.

Actions outlined in the plan also include an investigation to implement technology that will improve the housing conditions and lives of citizens, in addition to the provision of online housing services for RSL tenants.

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