WATERLOO: Digital inclusion is not a new challenge for public housing communities. For those whose core work is to provide face-to-face services and build resilient communities, COVID-19 has forced us to work differently, compelling many to deliver services online. This will only be possible, however, if the accessibility gap regarding equipment and the capacity deficit for our most marginalised are addressed. In the 2016 Census, local public-housing-only statistical areas reported only 35 percent of households had internet. Many tenants rely on mobile phone plans, primarily for phone calls, with low mobile data allowances. In some buildings like Dobell it is difficult to get mobile signals.
Tenants need access to free wifi; equipment such as tablets, laptops and smart phones; personal monitoring and medical assistance equipment; duress alarms and free access to training so they can embrace the opportunities technology can offer. For this to happen we need urgent investment from both government and the private sector. It will also require services to adapt quickly.
REDWatch and Counterpoint have approached the local technology hub at South Eveleigh to work with government to pilot potential solutions. Counterpoint is now a collection point for the Reconnect Project, which provides reconditioned mobile phones, tablets and laptops to people in need. It has pursued grants to provide families with computers, get data packs and, with REDWatch, is lobbying for free wifi in public housing.
By Michael Shreenan — courtesy of The South Sydney Herald