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Speech: Turia - Hamilton Multicultural Services

Hamilton Multicultural Services Trust
Hon Tariana Turia;
Minister of Community and Voluntary Sector
Thursday 29 October 2009; 10am

I came across a statement the other day which got me thinking. It was from Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM. In 1943 he said, and I quote, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”.

Well just three years ago, in New Zealand alone, the 2006 Census reported that 66% of people lived in households with access to the internet.

In fact, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for some families to have five computers operating in their home.

And with that suddenly our world is transformed.

The internet has become a vital lifeline to the outside world – a means of accessing a wide range of information and services.

Increasingly business and employment opportunities are negotiated exclusively by email; people are connecting to chat rooms, to blogs, to virtual networks; a website address is rapidly required as a standard contact. I have to keep an eye on my mokopuna as to what they are getting online to be honest

Conversely, people who are unable to access information technologies or who are without the skills to use them may miss out on immeasurable social, educational, cultural and economic benefits. This in turn will have adverse effects on their educational outcomes and employment prospects.

Our children have become virtual detectives, searching out any amount of detail with the assistance of a vast array of search engines.

All in all, home computers are being called on to perform an extensive range of functions, including the consumption of homework, traditionally eaten by the dog. Haven’t you heard it said – “honestly, I did do it, but I forgot to save and it disappeared!” My grandson says that.

But, as the Social Report for 2008 recently reported, not all homes are enjoying the status of a five computer household, let alone one.

In 2006, just 47% of Maori and 38% of Pacific peoples had access to the internet, well below access of 77% of Asians, 73% of ‘other ethnicities’ and 70% of Europeans.

Within that, only 50% of families with one parent in the home had internet access, compared to 79% of two parent families.

It’s time for a revolution - a digital revolution.

Enter the Computers in Homes project – and I really want to mihi to those of you who have been major starters in getting these Computers in Homes projects underway. Computers in Homes was inspired by the mission to provide all New Zealand families who are socially and economically disadvantaged with a computer, an internet connection, relevant training and technical support.

This is a wonderful project, a project which has made a huge difference to the lives of families that we might have otherwise called, ‘digitally disadvantaged’.

I prefer to call them “Navigators in Waiting”.

Today I am so proud to celebrate the launch of your Computers in Homes project which will assist your families in being able to navigate the internet and gain access to rapidly expanding horizons

Computers in Homes plays a significant part in building the digital skills of a community – communities just like the ones that come here to the Hamilton Multicultural Centre.

I believe that our communities greatly benefit when government and community groups form strong relationships like those that result from the Community Partnership Fund.

The Computers in Homes project we are here to launch today is an excellent example of a successful collaboration.

The Hamilton Multicultural Services Trust is working with the Hamilton City Council, the Waikato Institute of Technology, the Hamilton Ethnic Womens’ Trust and local schools to ensure results for the region’s families.
I know a little bit of your history – I tracked it on the internet – and I discovered that Computers in Homes here in Hamilton began with Somali and Afghani families at the Enderley Centre and has since been joined by Congolese, Lao and Somali families via the Waikato Migrant Centre.

This initiative has so much potential to open doors and make connections that might otherwise be difficult.

What makes this initiative unique, is this Centre – a place where people from all cultures and backgrounds can meet.

The interpreting service, the migrant internship programme, and all of the health promotion services available here, have paved the way for today.

Each of these initiatives is about providing support to people who have moved here from other countries. It is about literally honouring our obligations as tangata whenua to be a good host, to welcome and to care for those who are new to our land.

My switching on the Computers in Homes projects for the Multicultural Services Trust we are investing in an exciting opportunity for families to explore the world from the comfort of their own home.

Parents can pay the bills with online banking, families can communicate with one another, right across the globe, children can have fun in the vast array of learning websites (keep an eye on them though); and the whole whanau can upskill by taking part in online learning programmes.

This year, Government has distributed nearly six million dollars to 28 information and communication technology projects through the Community Partnership Fund.

It was money well spent.

The Community Partnership Fund has helped to build IT skills and capabilities; it has expanded existing projects, and backed new projects such as this one.
All in all, just over 140 community projects across Aotearoa have received over 23 million dollars – so it has been huge.

But the investment is not something that can be measured by dollar alone.
This year over 1500 families have had the support of the project, to refine their skills for work and training. It’s a project which is fundamentally about connections, and not just by virtue of the power source

For Computers in Home enables families to stay connected when they are separated from each other – we’ve already heard Bob talk about being connected to his children around the world; it helps communities to know how to use technology and to fully participate in their local community, with government, and in the economy.

Developing digital literacy is about starting at the very source – inspiring and energising our whanau; encouraging local people to come up with solutions to local issues.

I wish you all much success in creating a very successful partnership, and I congratulate you all, on your decision to become digitally empowered, navigators of the universe.

The World awaits you.

All you need now is the password – and that password is Computers in Homes.


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