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Communities Making the Most of Knowledge Society

Sunday Nov 2
Communities Making the Most of the Knowledge Society

What do communities need to make the most of our Knowledge society? Maps of their assets, digital snapshots of their regions or laptop warriors who will help them plan for their future ICT needs?

This is on the agenda of a Connecting Communities Conference being held in Wellington this week which has attracted 400 community, research, private sector and government
representatives who want to sort it out.

“This conference hopes to ‘set the agenda’ for ways communities in New Zealand can be strengthened using information and communications technology over the next five years,” says conference organiser, Jan Symington, Connecting Communities Relationships Manager of the Community Employment Group, a service of the Department of Labour.

“It’s all about how government can be more strategic, how private and public partnerships can add value to our communities and its about harnessing the community innovation and research energies that are already out there.”

On Wednesday, the last day of the conference, all participants will be playing a planning game developed by Making The Net Work. This is based around a strategic ‘wish list’ of programmes identified by community groups and local agencies over the last 18 months. The programmes being considered include support for Digital Champions, toolkits for going on-line, running networks and promoting the benefits of ICT, and the introduction of ‘e-riders’ sometimes called ‘laptop warriors’.

“The three top needs from each group playing the planning game will be presented at the end of the conference. We will then collate all the priorities and other key issues that delegates identify and this will become a blueprint for us to work towards over the next five years,” says Ms Symington. “This has the potential to make a significant impact on how communities use technology to become stronger in the future.”

The conference organised in collaboration with a number of government agencies and community groups, will be the first to bring community people, researchers, government representatives and the private sector together to highlight positive community ICT stories, identify barriers and thrash out a five year agenda for action.

Key speakers at the conference will include the Chief Executive of the Department of Labour James Buwalda; Gene Crick, Executive Director of a not for profit TeleCommunity Resource Centre in Texas which works to create community internet tools and networks; Hana O’Regan, a co-manager of the Ngai Tahu Maori language unit; Julie Inman of Microsoft, who will be talking about a new community support programme ‘Unlimited Potential’; Chris Cszekely, Manukau City librarian who has helped Manukau libraries win a national innovation award for their ICT response to youth needs; Steve Maharey, Minister for Social Development and Employment who will discuss the wider implications of the Knowledge Society, the Hon Parekura Horomia and the Hon Tariana Turia, both Associate Ministers for Social Development and Employment. A UNESCO representative is chairing the panel on cultural and intellectual property on Wednesday.

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