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Fiona Hyslop MSP launches new digital project in Glasgow high rise

Press Release   •   Oct 30, 2013 00:00 GMT

More than a hundred households in a Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) multi-storey will be able to connect to the internet as part of a new project to encourage digital participation.

GHA, which is part of Wheatley Group, has teamed up with the Scottish Government and BT to give tenants in a block in Kirkton Avenue, Knightswood, affordable wi-fi access. It’s the first large-scale Scottish project of its kind and is believed to be among the first in Europe.

The trial project will see each of the 138 homes in the GHA block offered a new tablet to connect to high speed wi-fi access points throughout the building, linked back into the main BT network via a single fibre cable.

The digital inclusion project, which is backed by over £70,000 of funding from the Scottish Government, was launched today by Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop. She met some of the tenants who are set to benefit at a digital training session at the local community flat.

Ms Hyslop said: “This digital wi-fi pilot will provide an affordable and sustainable broadband service to the residents of this block at Kirkton Avenue.

“The partnership approach demonstrated here reflects the Scottish Government’s vision for Scotland being a truly digital nation. Our vision is not just about delivering world class infrastructure, it is also about ensuring that people have the confidence and skills to get online and enjoy the benefits of the digital age.”

GHA Chair Gordon Sloan said: “We believe that getting online and having access to the internet can change people’s lives for the better. Getting online from home, at a time and place that suits our social housing tenants, can improve job prospects, reduce bills and also benefit their studies.

“We are working closely with all of our partners to identify the best digital services which will give our tenants access to a whole world of possibilities at their fingertips.”

BT Scotland director Brendan Dick added: “The idea of giving tenants the ability to get online is one that many housing associations across the UK are considering, but here in Glasgow it is already a reality.

“We’re proud to be working with the Scottish Government and GHA to connect people digitally and help them build a better future. They’ve shown great leadership in their ambition to make sure tenants can draw on the internet services that most of us take for granted – online shopping, discounts, jobs, training, social networking and entertainment.

“At BT, we believe in the power of communication to make a better world and transform people’s quality of life. Through our Connected Society programme we help people gain the skills and confidence they need to join the online community.

“The exciting thing for us is that the system we’ve developed in Glasgow is both simple and cost effective, working out at a cost to GHA of around £5 per tenant a month for this study. If the trial is a success, it could be replicated by housing associations UK-wide.

“As well as providing a potentially life-changing facility for their tenants, housing associations will see improved efficiencies. Tenants and housing officers will be able to link to internal systems to report and manage faults, pay and process bills, download information and complete other business.”

Once the technology is in place, the system can be used to access services in areas such as telecare, telehealth and smart-metering, as well as the online welfare reforms which are on the horizon.

The Kirkton Avenue trial follows a pilot project in Pollok, in Glasgow’s South Side, where 12 families in three GHA blocks of low-rise flats were provided with online access to see how broadband improves their quality of life.

The long-term aim for GHA is for every one of its homes to have internet access.

Only one third of GHA’s tenants are currently online. Figures also show 90 per cent of GHA tenants over the age of 65 have never used the internet.

Glasgow as a whole has a low level of broadband take-up – with only 50 per cent of Glaswegians online compared to 80 per cent in the whole of the UK.

ENDS

Notes to editors

Wheatley Group, which is regulated by the Scottish Housing Regulator, currently comprises three Registered Social Landlords and two commercial subsidiaries:

  • GHA, Scotland’s largest social landlord, with 43,000 affordable homes for rent in Glasgow;
  • Cube Housing Association with 3300 homes for rent across the West of Scotland;
  • West Lothian Housing Partnership with 380 affordable homes for rent;
  • Scotland’s “Feel Good Factor”, YourPlace Property Management, with 25,000 factored homeowners in Central Scotland;
  • and Lowther Homes with 346 full and mid-market homes to rent from Glasgow’s West End to Leith.


About BT’s Connected Society programme 

At BT, we believe in the power of communication to make a better world. Through our Connected Society programme we run a number of projects around the world to help people get online and develop the skills and confidence they need to use the internet. Using our technology, we open up a world of information and opportunity, helping children and whole communities reach for a better future. www.bt.com/BetterFuture

About SG’s Demonstrating Digital Programme
Scotland’s Digital Future: Infrastructure Action Plan1 sets out the Scottish Government’s commitment to a world-class, future proofed infrastructure that will deliver digital connectivity across the whole of Scotland by 2020.

The Demonstrating Digital programme is helping to accelerate Scotland’s path to world-class by undertaking a series of demonstration and pilot projects that demonstrate innovative approaches, solutions and digital technologies.

This reflects the fact that our world-class vision is not just about delivering world-class infrastructure. It is also about ensuring that the people of Scotland have the confidence and skills to get online and enjoy the benefits of the digital age.

Demonstrating Digital pilot and demonstration projects are being delivered in partnership with industry and will be spread across a number of city and rural locations.

1 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/01/1487