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James Hadlee, Tenancy Relations Manager for OCHT James Hadlee, Tenancy Relations Manager for OCHT CREDIT: Supplied

Lockdown Isolation Highlighted as Issue For Those Caught in Digital Divide

Monday 6 September 2021, 1:05PM
By RedPR
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CHRISTCHURCH

One of the country’s leading community housing providers is continuing to develop its plans to eliminate the digital inequity for ŌCHT housing tenants living in Christchurch. 

Over the last two weeks during the Covid lockdown, the Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust has been phoning tenants to talk with them about which devices they use, what they use the internet for, and how having access to high-speed (fibre) internet would help them in their lives? 

ŌCHT Tenancy Relations Manager, James Hadlee, who is managing the Digital Equity Programme, says the team has connected with about 60% of tenants and once the country moves to Level 2, the Trust will door knock those they haven’t been able to reach by phone.

“We are preparing for the official approval of this partnership between Enable and ŌCHT which would see free fibre internet in our tenants’ homes. Lockdown has been a perfect opportunity to contact our tenants to get and give more information. Something that we’ve heard from them is that lockdown isolation is one of the challenges that better access to high-speed internet would help address. Those who live on their own are telling us they would feel less alone with internet connectivity, as well as having access to online grocery delivery and other web-based services – of particular importance when our movement is limited,” he says. 

The information the team is gathering will contribute to building a new education service that’ll support people to confidently use their devices and make the most of the online world.   

“Doing things that many of us take for granted like being able to navigate websites, set up and use email, use online banking, be safe and secure online, manage passwords, communicate online, install and use useful apps, such as MyMSD, Council Bin Collection app, Metro, Banking apps, Shopping apps, CCC Library (Libby/OverDrive). The proposed free internet service will help tenants enjoy the same benefits as the wider community,” James says.  

The ring-around has also confirmed previous survey information that revealed the reason many who don’t have the Internet at home is because they can’t afford it. 

“A large number have simple data plans on their mobile phones,” says James.  “Cost is an obvious barrier, which is why we’ve also learned 73% of the people we’ve called so far would connect to the new, free fibre broadband service. Half the people we’ve called say they have the skills to use devices and the internet, but 40% say they would be interested in attending free training. Older people tend to be more interested in free digital training,” says James.

Together with the help of Te Wānaga o Aotearoa and its skills programme Kanorau Digital, the training will be undertaken in group sessions in community lounges and other community facilities, and in one-on-one individual sessions for those who need it. ŌCHT is also grateful to the Rātā Foundation for their financial support which has enabled them to engage Digital Coaching Advisor, Joanne Cantrick.

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