Trident Social Investment Group has been awarded the prize for Public Sector Project of the Year at the Techworld Awards.

The Midlands social housing provider, which was crowned winner out of a shortlist comprising Milton Keynes Hospital, Surrey University and the Ministry of Defence (MoD), was honoured for its ‘Digital Inclusion’ project.

Residents queuing at a Trident Social Investment Group van. Image credit: Trident Social Investment Group

The aim of the project was to increase the IT literacy of Trident residents - many of whom were previously homeless - so that they could use online services.

However, the project, led by Trident’s head of ICT, Ed Reed, did not involve simply teaching residents how to use the internet. It included installing hi-tech computing facilities for around 2,000 people, providing them with training and installing a free wifi network for the residents.

Following a consultation period with residents, Trident installed 42 computers across eight sites for residents to use, and identified local internet cafes and libraries with computer facilities. The computer suites housed a range of technology, such as 3D graphics, office software, video software and 100MB of upload and download speeds, all delivered through flat screen PCs and high spec desktop computers. These were supplemented by low cost, reconditioned PCs.

The social housing provider then delivered facilities and training to give everyone, from the most vulnerable, the skills and confidence to get online.

“The key to the success of this first phase of the project was constant communication between residents and IT staff,” said Reed on his Techworld Awards entry form.

“It had become apparent early in this project that collaboration was necessary in order to achieve the maximum benefit for our residents. The project not only saw the installation of hardware and software, but the team gave up their own time to support, train and provide advice to residents regarding digital inclusion and Universal Credit updates.”

Thanks to this collaboration, Trident now runs regular job clubs, silver surfers clubs and free computer training across multiple sites, with a focus on developing residents’ job search skills, job application writing and helping them to start their own businesses. Members of staff from other parts of the Trident business have also been recruited as ‘digital champions’ to help get residents online.

Free wifi

The second part of the project was the installation of a wifi solution dedicated to Trident residents. The social housing provider chose a Motorola system provided by FourteenIP, which allows residents to log into the network through a Trident landing page, which also contains information and news about the social housing provider.

“Through the replacement of just some of our printed resident communications, a saving of up to £20,000 per annum can be realised,” Reed said.

“Other benefits have included the replacement of several business broadband lines, saving in excess of £2,000 per annum, as well as reduced costs for data bundles for field-based operatives, who are now connecting through a separate, dedicated staff wifi.”

Reed expects the return on investment over a five-year period to be around £400,000 through savings in printing, paper, postage, cancellation of existing lines and additional rental income generated by those paying for existing wifi contracts.

“Along with the social benefits of residents being able to get online, pay rent, search for work and become more digitally included, there is a great deal of excitement about the next stage of rollout,” Reed said.

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