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Telecom To Assist In Closing The Internet Gaps

Telecom is to work in partnership with the Tairawhiti Development Taskforce on a trial programme to improve access to the Internet and computer skills in Tairawhiti communities.

"As a New Zealand company, Telecom is committed to helping all New Zealanders access the Internet and improve their skills,” Telecom's General Manager Government and Industry Relations, Bruce Parkes, said today.

"We know that some people find it difficult to get on line, especially if they are outside main towns and have little spare cash,” Mr Parkes said.

"For the sake of New Zealand's future, it's important that we don't allow a digital divide to develop, between those who are part of the online revolution and those who are not."

Mr Parkes said Telecom has suggested to the Tairawhiti Development Taskforce that they work in partnership on a trial of Community Internet groups based on the highly successful SeniorNet programme.

There are 55 SeniorNet Learning Centres around the country, running courses in computer skills and Internet use for people aged over 55.

Mr Parkes said Telecom's initiative of introducing SeniorNet to New Zealand has been a runaway success, with thousands of older New Zealanders becoming confident and skilled in information and communications technology.

"One of the keys to SeniorNet's success is that the drive to set up a group comes from the community, and the members then learn from each other. "

Telecom provides each new SeniorNet group with a start-up package of two free phone lines, two years free phone rental, a free Xtra internet connection and free usage of Xtra for two years, and a cash grant.

"We are offering to provide a similar package of assistance to two groups in Tairawhiti on a trial basis. This would give us a chance to assess whether the SeniorNet model will work on a broader basis, and whether there is a demand in the community for this kind of support. We're looking forward to working with the Tairawhiti Development Taskforce to develop this idea," Mr Parkes said.

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