Orbit Housing Group

Orbit Group, Multiple Locations

Project Background

Orbit Group provides affordable housing to around 39,000 households in England, primarily in the Midlands, the East and South East regions, and parts of London.

As part of Orbit Groups ‘Digital Inclusion Strategy’, the organisation seeks to address the complex issues which come under its ‘digital inclusion’ agenda and acknowledges that these cannot be addressed by working in isolation. In particular, Orbit Group seeks to support channel shift to lower-cost online channels; help vulnerable residents’ access benefit entitlements and job opportunities; enable older residents and residents with disabilities to benefit from more opportunities for independent living; expand the younger generations knowledge of the internet outside of social media and reduce pressures and overheads for ICT staff.

The Orbit Living Shared WiFi pilot project was proposed and approved in 2013 as part of delivering Orbit’s Digital Inclusion Strategy. The purpose of the project was to investigate and explore options for providing cost-effective internet access alongside digital engagement and skills support.

Project Overview

Implementation of the project started in February 2014 and all schemes were ‘live’ by the end of May 2014. The initial aim of the project was to deliver free-at-the-point-of-use WiFi internet access in the communal areas of 20 Orbit schemes (14 sheltered schemes and 6 supported schemes across Orbit Heart of England and Orbit South).

In April 2016 7 more schemes were added. This extension has been due to the success to date of the project and to provide more time to explore sustainable cost recovery models and to develop an Orbit-wide procurement approach for internet access services. In December 2016, a further 14 schemes were added leading to 41 successfully installed schemes. For 2017, further 75 new installations are planned. 

Technically, CommunityUK (now Digital Unity Group) designed and deployed a state of the art high speed WiFi Internet system that provides secure and discrete coverage and Internet Access to the main “public” lounges within the schemes, as well as in computer rooms, libraries and, in some cases, to the residents living quarters.

The system provides a completely free level of Internet Access with a download speed of 4MB, together with low cost, higher speed services being available to those tenants who want them. Tenants are not required to enter into any kind of contract and downloads are unlimited.

In addition, all public or “Shared PC’s” within the schemes are also connected to the CommunityUK network and monitored and managed remotely through it via a system developed and configured by UK especially for Orbit.

The WiFi system is also fully monitored and managed remotely via a locally installed Network Management Server that also provides a very high level of security to the network, which also includes protecting often vulnerable tenants from certain types of internet content such as Pornography, Pay Day Loans etc.

Registration and logon to the service is quickly and easily accomplished and residents are provided with a customised and Orbit Branded local landing page that provides users with a range of useful information, advice and guidance re internet use along with supporting links to relevant websites and partners.

All bandwidth (broadband connections) for the network are also provided and managed by CommunityUK.

Throughout the project, CommunityUK has been Orbit’s main partner in both designing and implementing the WiFi approach and in managing and maintaining the service. Orbit Group is also working with local charities and community organisations to arrange and offer digital skills engagement activities to customers with access to internet facilities in pilot project schemes.

Orbit’s Approach to Digital Inclusion

Digital inclusion is about going beyond providing the ‘boxes and wires’ to enable access the internet, it is about helping people to get online and to build the skills and confidence to make the most of the opportunities it offers.

It is about helping people to understand how they can use online services to remove or limit the issues that affect them and take advantage of new opportunities available through online routes.

It is about making sure that online services are designed to be inclusive - of how people want and need to use them, of the devices and connection speeds that people will have available and of the rich environment of other sources of support and advice that are available online.

Future Plans

The pilot project will continue in its current form until April 2016. However, we will look to inform wider strategic planning of other customer facing internet access services and look at service improvements within the project scope. Key actions during the partnership with Orbit Group:

1. We are working closely with Orbit Group to put into place any improvements that have been suggested to us by Staff or Residents. These will include:

a. Simplifying the network registration and login processes.

b. Reviewing the post login ‘splash’ page to ensure it continues to be useful and meaningful to our customers.

c. Exploring interest in and options for ‘hyperlocal’ pages and content that may help to develop digital communities to complement physical and social communities.

2. We will build on the enthusiasm shown to date by customers and staff who have provided their views on the pilot project by setting up a user group for Orbit and CommunityUK.net to work in identifying, testing and refining features of the service.

3. We will look in depth at cost-recovery and re-procurement options during 2015 to ensure that we are able to offer low cost, sustainable internet access options to our customers and minimise disruption at the end of the project period (end of March 2016).

4. We will continue to support and expand local community-based digital skills activities to enable more customers to benefit from the WiFi services.

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12 October 2015

Orbit Housing Group


Orbit Housing Group

Our core ethos and business model is built around the belief that we must deliver real benefit to the people, communities and organisations we work with. As a member of the Digital Leaders 100 Club and a signatory to the UK government's Digital Inclusion Charter, we help to end digital exclusion and make the UK one of the true leaders of the digital world.

Contact Address

   Digital Unity Group Ltd
         18/19 The Walled Garden,
         The Nostell Estate,
         West Yorkshire,
         WF4 1AB

   +44 (0) 330 122 4650
  +44 (0) 330 122 7425
  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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