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November 20, 2013

Off line no more

If you are reading this Briefing you can consider yourself one of the digitally connected. The extent to which the internet plays a part in your life may vary but you are certainly not one of the estimated 7.1 million in the UK who currently do not have access to the web. Glasgow’s population has a particularly high rate of digital disconnectedness – 40% overall and 90% of over 65s.  As web based access to key services becomes increasingly the norm, many more local initiatives like this one from GHA will be needed.


Saleha Riaz | New Services 4/11/13

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 affordable technology project.

GHA 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 more than £70,000 of funding from the Scottish Government, was launched by Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs. She met some of the tenants who are set to benefit at a training session at the community flat.

Ms Hyslop said: “I am delighted to launch this digital wi-fi pilot, one that 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 world-class digital nation.  Our world-class vision is not just about delivering world class infrastructure.  It is also about ensuring that our people have the confidence and skills to get online and enjoy the benefits of the digital age.

“This is the Scottish Government’s first major Demonstrating Digital pilot, one that will showcase fibre and wireless technology and allow a range of digital services to be provided to a previously unconnected area.”

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. These can help properties to adapt as people age, supporting tenants to stay in their homes for a lifetime should they wish.

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 60 per cent of Glaswegians online compared to 78 per cent in the whole of the UK.