Social housing  |  15 May 2021

Moves are under way to deliver free internet access to Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust (ŌCHT) tenants.

Christchurch fibre company Enable has formed a 10-year partnership with the housing provider to “eliminate digital inequity”. More than 60 per cent of the ŌCHT tenants are not connected to the internet at home, missing out on many benefits and opportunities.

Enable is working to gain regulatory approvals to deliver a free, maximum speed, wholesale internet service to tenants while the trust finalises funding to support education and support.

“Enable and ŌCHT share a belief that the opportunity to access the internet and participate in the digital world is really essential in this day and age,” Enable Chief Executive Steve Fuller says. “The reality is that a significant number of people in our community are disadvantaged by this and we want to address the barriers that stand in the way for ŌCHT tenants.”

ŌCHT Chief Executive Cate Kearney says the Covid-19 lockdowns highlight how digital inequity can affect those left very isolated through a lack of online connection.

“We know that the world has become so reliant on being digitally connected, whether it’s to use services from banking to education; finding a job; the ways families, friends and community groups connect; and even how we access entertainment,” she says.

“If our tenants cannot connect and participate, they will become increasingly isolated and unable to fully participate in society.”

However, she says that the problem “cannot be solved by simply turning on an internet service and expecting people to use it” and that it is important to address all four barriers  access (to connectivity and devices), skills, motivation, and trust.

“Providing internet connectivity and digital support services to our tenants is an exciting opportunity that aligns to our goal of providing homes that foster community participation and wellbeing,” Ms Kearney says.