One of the UK’s largest digital pilot schemes to help older and vulnerable people get online has been hailed a success, after it helped more than 400 people to access free WiFi.
Orbit Group has invested in a project to install free WiFi through 20 of its sheltered and supported schemes across the country to help its customers get online.
Working in partnership with CommunityUK , the project has seen 434 registered users log on to the service more than 21,000 times in the first six months. Initial customer feedback has shown that the initiative has positive impacts on social isolation, employability and wellbeing.
Following the success of the pilot, Orbit is now continuing to work with CommunityUK to extend the service into more schemes and is developing a whole-organisation approach to commissioning internet access services to support long-term planning and to reach many more customers.
After the six-month pilot, social return on investment analysis suggests that the project has generated £2.90 of social value for every £1 spent.
Tim Dumbleton, Digital Inclusion Project Manager for Orbit Group, said: “We are committed to helping more of our customers online and it is through partnerships like this that we can make significant steps to tackling digital exclusion.
“As part of our 2020 Vision we are committed to investing in our communities. As well as projects like this we are also working with other housing providers, as part of the Connected Housing Initiative, to explore opportunities to work collaboratively to make broadband provision affordable, accessible and sustainable for customers.”
Sixty-five-year-old Bill Lilley, from Alcester, took part in the pilot. He said: “I’m a late starter where computers are concerned. About seven years ago, I was doing some studying at college and a lot of the work was computerised so I had to learn the basics to do the work. That’s when I realised that computers are amazing things - you can more or less do anything on a computer.
“I’ve friends who don’t have emails and I think it’s sad that older people don’t use computers much. I’m sure grandchildren, and great grandchildren, would love to receive an email, tweet or a post from their gran. That’s how youngsters communicate nowadays.”