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Shout out for digital ambassadors in Whangarei

Northpower Fibre Limited Media Statement
Date: 5 April, 2014
Subject: Shout out for digital ambassadors in Whangarei

Sean Walters is keen to get some work experience during the holidays.

But it won’t be packing supermarket shelves. Instead the 18-year old computing student from Regent Training Centre is applying to be a youth digital ambassador at Whangarei’s upcoming technology expo - a “tough” job involving spending his holidays on a smart phone or laptop.

If chosen, Mr Walters will be part of a group of 18 tech-savvy Whangarei young people working at the ICT Hub at Forum North between April 30 and May 8. The Hub will be connected to Northpower Fibre’s ultra-fast broadband network which is just weeks away from completion.

The ambassadors will be on hand to explain the complexities of internet-based products and smart phone applications to business people, educators, health professionals and local residents - many of them old enough to be their parents.

“I’m a bit nervous, but I’m really interested in technology stuff and learning more, and teaching people who don’t know much about technology,” says Mr Walters. “I’m thinking about going into IT when I finish my course, so it would give me really good work experience.”

Beth Cooper, executive officer for Whangarei Youth Space, which is recruiting the youth ambassadors, says the word has gone out to schools, training providers and through various local Facebook pages, and there has already been a strong response. But she is still keen to hear from others who might like to join the team.

“It is a great opportunity for tech-savvy young people to develop their skills, get training in up to 30 different internet-based products, and work alongside some industry leaders. They will get work experience, ICT contacts, references and a boost to their CV. Some may even get course credits.”

She says the decision to use local young people, rather than industry professionals, as the ambassadors, is a sign of the level of ICT skills available in the local community.

“This is a demographic that uses technology the most and are really smart. Part of this is a demonstration to the wider community that we have fantastic young people who are talented and can rub shoulders with the business, education, health and other people that will come to the ICT Hub.”

Ms Cooper says the perception of a socio-economic “digital divide” means outsiders sometimes assume Northland is disadvantaged in terms of technological expertise - when the reality is often quite different.

The completion of the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband in Whangarei before anywhere else in the country, the early adoption of technology in many schools, and the use of internet-facilitated distance learning, means many students in Northland have skills at least as good as their big city counterparts, if not better, she says.

“Obviously access to computers at home can be a problem for some families and some rural communities. But these young people are connected and know their way around different devices and applications.

“And the UFB roll-out is a demonstration we could be up there leading the way.”

Anna Verboeket is spokesperson for Crown Fibre Holdings which, along with Northpower Fibre, has completed the UFB rollout in Whangarei and is sponsoring the ICT Hub. She says there is also a long term benefit from the youth digital ambassadors project.

“This isn’t just your normal trade show where companies come in and then just leave again. With the ICT Hub, the 18 digital ambassadors will learn how to use different IT products and services, and will be around to help people at home or in businesses or schools understand them. But once the trade show finishes, that knowledge remains in Whangarei.”

Ms Verboeket says the Forum North hub will have laptops and smart phones available for visitors to use, and there will be a big range of entertainment, business, education, health and products and services to find out about, with the assistance of the youth digital ambassadors.

Digital Youth Ambassadors need to be available for training on April 29 and for a three-day shift between April 30 and May 8. Anyone interested should contact Whangarei Youth Space via its Facebook page or call 972 9248.

A map of Northpower Fibre’s Whangarei network, along with a list of retail service providers (broadband providers) on the Northpower Fibre network can be found at www.northpowerfibre.co.nz


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