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$2m strategy to get community orgs. on-line

26 June 2002 Media Statement

$2m strategy to get community organisations on-line

A $2 million strategy to encourage community organisations to make use of information and communications technology (ICT) was released by Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey today.

Connecting Communities builds on work being undertaken by several government agencies to ensure that all New Zealanders bridge the so-called ‘digital divide’ so that they are in a position to make the most of the opportunities presented by ICT. A new action plan will coordinate the various ICT programmes for community organisations and a dedicated unit is to be established in the Community Employment Group to oversee the strategy’s implementation.

Steve Maharey and local MP Georgina Beyer visited a course run by Masterton’s SeniorNet this afternoon to see for themselves how the successful nationwide computer training organisation is closing the digital divide in the Wairarapa. They were accompanied by the Community Employment Group’s new ICT Relationships Manager, Jan Symington, who will be responsible for implementing the Connecting Communities strategy.

“The Prime Minister’s growth and innovation framework identified closing the digital divide as a key issue for communities. Efforts to build a more innovative New Zealand could isolate pockets of our society unless proper effort is put into ensuring all New Zealanders can learn about and access new technology.

“The government believes it is important to get this work underway immediately.

“Connecting Communities recognises that there is a real need to support and coordinate current efforts by both public and non-government organisations so that communities can maximise the opportunities ICT offers them. It does not attempt to reinvent wheels or to stifle exisiting initiatives.

“Central to the strategy is the creation of a new specialist CEG unit with responsibility for coordinating ICT initiatives targeted at community organisations. It will also be responsible for progressing a seven-point action plan to:
- develop or adapt best-practice ICT planning tools for community organisations;
- coordinate central government assistance;
- strengthen organisational infrastructures to support community ICT access;
- develop communications and networking;
- develop an ICT research and evaluation programme;
- ensure the availabilty of training programmes for workers supporting community ICT projects; and,
- relationship development and partnership leveraging between communities, the government and key corporate and philanthropic sponsors.

“SeniorNet is an excellent example of the type of community organisation this strategy is designed to support. There are now over 75 SeniorNet clubs across the country demystifying computers and the internet for those aged 55 and over.

“With better support we can ensure that we bridge the digital divide for all our communities,” Steve Maharey said.

ENDS

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