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Wgtn City Cn Wins Digital Access Award

Wellington City Council Wins Inaugural UNESCO New Zealand Digital Access Award


The Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon Helen Clark has tonight presented the Wellington City Council with the inaugural UNESCO New Zealand Digital Access Award at the "Catching the Knowledge Wave" conference in Auckland.

The Prime Minister presented the Award to the Council for “its innovative endeavours in promoting empowerment, participation and access for all in the knowledge society”.

UNESCO NZ representative Liz Longworth, internationally recognised Internet lawyer, told the gathering at the Conference dinner that the Wellington City Council was one of the first local authorities to recognise the emerging knowledge economy and the importance of building a "digitally literate" community.

“It has worked consistently for 15 years to translate its vision into action. Its focus on 'access for all' has remained at the core of its strategy, making the it a most deserving recipient of the first UNESCO New Zealand Digital Access Award,” Ms Longworth said.

“As recently as last weekend, the Council’s commitment to addressing the digital divide was demonstrated when it teamed up with Fujitsu to put a computer room into council flats at Newtown Park giving some 450 residents free access to computers, the Internet, training and support.”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) aims to contribute to peace and human development through education, the sciences, culture and communication. A key strategic goal of the organisation for the next five years is: "Promoting empowerment and participation in the emerging knowledge society through equitable access, capacity-building and sharing of knowledge"

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO created the Digital Access Award as a means of drawing attention to the efforts of organisations in the private sector as well as local government, civil agencies, not-for-profit organisations and State Owned Enterprises to prevent a digital divide amongst peoples and communities in New Zealand.

Ms Longworth said as early as 1986, WCC had launched its own internal computer network called City Net. The following year, the Council installed fibre optic cable between its buildings and later to other buildings in the city, creating one of the world's first city-wide broadband networks. In 1992, well before the Internet emerged in New Zealand, the Council provided dial-up access to one of its computers, facilitating public access to Council information.
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In 1995, the Council approved an InfoCity Strategy to develop "a smart city with an innovative and responsive economy". In 1996, it established the 2020 Community Trust, a partnership between the Council, the community and local businesses, with the aim of "ensuring that every citizen is equipped with the essential values, information, skills and opportunities to fully participate in creating the Information Society."

During the last five years, this vision has remained firm. Numerous initiatives have evolved and projects have expanded to touch people well beyond Wellington's City limits. The City Link fibre network now connects most buildings in Wellington and is currently extending to other centres. City Net has evolved to become Wellington Community Net, hosting over 120 community organisations on the Web. The 2020 Communications Trust pioneered NetDay in New Zealand, assisting the wiring up of schools.

In 1997, WCC assisted in the establishment of a computer recycling operation in Wellington. This has developed into a successful business that is currently a key player in Project Rorohiko, delivering 2000 recycled Government computers to schools on the East Coast, Gisborne and Wairoa..

In 2000, with support from central government, the Trust launched a new initiative Computers in Homes. This project aims to ensure that every family in New Zealand has access to an Internet-connected computer in their home and that all family members (no matter how old they are) have the skills to make effective use of the computer.

Derek Fry, WCC General Manager of City Services and Marketing received the Award for the Wellington City Council.

Further UNESCO NZ Digital Access Awards are to be presented during 2002. Nominations of suitable organisations deserving of recognition for their efforts in this sphere should be made to the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO. Selection criteria are on the UNESCO NZ website: www.unesco.org.nz or can be obtained directly from the National Commission.


Ends

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