A tablet lending scheme like the one set up by 100% Digital Leeds can be a way to help individuals and organisations overcome the barrier of access to devices and connectivity.
The 100% Digital Leeds lending scheme consists of a set of 300 4G enabled iPads that are available for organisations to borrow to support the development of digital inclusion within their organisation. The loan allows organisations to trial different approaches to integrating digital inclusion into their work without the immediate need to invest in equipment or connectivity.
Some third sector organisations within Leeds have also set up their own independent lending schemes to loan directly to their users. The 100% Digital Leeds framework contract and Managed Service means that charities and smaller organisations can buy into the scheme if desired, providing an easy solution to GDPR, data governance, and connectivity issues.
Access to a tablet lending scheme enables organisations without devices or connectivity to trial integrating digital into their services at no financial risk and with the flexibility needed to take a ‘test and learn’ approach. It allows them to experience the benefits of the technology, and helps them build a case for future funding requests to purchase their own devices, either via internal budgeting or external grant applications.
100% Digital Leeds lends iPads to organisations rather than individuals, with the intent of increasing the capacity of the third sector to offer digital skills support. It is down to the organisation to decide how the iPads should be used to support their digitally excluded clients.
Organisations are free to lend the iPads to digitally excluded individuals they support, or to use them within the organisation, as long as they meet the requirement of using them to support the digital inclusion of adults in Leeds.
The loan is accompanied by additional support from the 100% Digital Leeds team to help organisations overcome any other barriers as they arise, including staff training needs, development of procedures, and identifying funding opportunities.
Organisations complete a simple application form via the 100% Digital Leeds website. Loans are granted based on current availability, and whether the application matches criteria of supporting digitally excluded adults within Leeds. Where necessary, they are prioritised based on whether they also reach target audiences or specific priority areas within the city.
Tablet loans are managed through Leeds Libraries Library Management System. Organisations are set up with a tablet lending account on the system, and each iPad has a barcode assigned with the individual IMEI and SIM number registered on the LMS. If organisations choose to lend the iPads to individuals they are requested to keep a note of the barcodes so that individual iPads can be identified in case of a problem.
There is no set loan period for the tablets, rather they are rolling loans based on evaluation information received. Organisations are loaned the tables for an initial period of one month, after which their usage is reviewed. Evaluation data is gathered on a monthly basis in order to determine whether the loan should be extended.
At the end of the each month an email generated via the LMS sends the organisation a link to a usage survey. The completion of this survey triggers renewal of the loan. The iPads are returned once the organisation has found a more sustainable solution, or if it is determined that they are not being used to support digital inclusion.
It is up to the organisation to support their clients to develop their digital skills. Organisations are given simple ‘iPad user guides’ to give out with the iPads, and signposted to resources which may help them or their clients to develop their digital skills.
Training and support for staff and volunteers is available so that they are able to best identify and support their digitally excluded clients (link to Digital Champions). They are also supported to develop a sustainable digital inclusion plan for their organisation going forward, including understanding the need for digital inclusion, understanding how they can help develop the digital inclusion of their service users, and helping them overcome any barriers to delivering digital inclusion.
Throughout the process the 100% Digital Leeds team help organisations to assess the impact of their digital inclusion work. They are encouraged to use the loan as an opportunity to justify the funds needed to implement their own digital inclusion plans, including buying their own equipment, either by petitioning organisational budget holders or applying to external funders.
As part of the loan agreement organisations are obliged to provide usage information and impact studies. Organisations are expected to complete a monthly usage survey plus provide additional information that is used to develop an impact case study.
The organisational case studies are collaborative and developed over time, often documenting the organisation’s digital inclusion journey as well as the impact on the organisation’s clients. Case studies are often used by the organisation to find the funding to buy their own equipment.
Partners are also requested to help clients complete a learner survey, which helps to calculate potential return on investment.
There is a certain degree of inevitable risk associated with loaning out digital equipment, and while steps are taken to minimise this there is an expectation that some losses will occur.
A loan agreement is in place to set out the terms of the tablet loan and the expectations organisations are expected to meet. By signing up to the Tablet Lending Scheme organisations agree to maximise the usage of the tablets, provide evaluation and feedback, and, within reason, to look after the hardware provided, including keeping track of individual iPads, reporting any faults, loss, or damage, and returning the tablets at the end of the loan period.
However, organisations are not held liable for loss or damage. The reason for this is to allow organisations of all sizes to feel able to utilise the tablet lending scheme to support the most digitally excluded groups – often people with chaotic lives – without worrying about whether they will be left with a bill should an incident occur.