UK expert calls for expansion of Computers in Homes

Laurence Zwimpfer - 2020 Contracts DirectorPress Release: The Computers in Homes programme along with other digital inclusion initiatives such as Computer Clubhouse and Aotearoa People’s Network should be expanded to ensure no-one misses out from the Government’s Ultra-Fast broadband (UFB) programme, says a visiting UK expert.

Dr Tim Williams, a UK urban regeneration expert, was speaking in Wellington on Monday 2 May at the launch of his new independent report “Connecting Communities – The Impact of Broadband on Communities in the UK and its implications for New Zealand”.

“New Zealand led the world in the 1980’s with its open approach to telecommunications market reform and can do so again in creating a nation of digitally literate people who are able to make effective use of the new ultra-fast broadband technology,” he said.

“Now is the time for innovation in the use of broadband networks as they are rapidly becoming a reality for all New Zealanders -urban and rural,” said Dr Williams. “But we cannot measure success by access to broadband alone – the real goal must be its use by people.”

“This is music to our ears,” said Laurence Zwimpfer, programme director for the national Computers in Homes programme. “Our focus since the very beginning of our programme over 10 years ago has been on building people’s confidence to make effective use of computers and the internet. Our complementary Stepping UP digital skills programme, supported by Microsoft, takes this a step further and helps people apply their new skills at work and in their everyday lives.”

Since Computers in Homes was established in 2000 over 5000 families have participated; each has received a refurbished computer for their home, a fully funded internet connection for 6 months as well as training and technical support. The goal is to ensure every family with school-aged children has access to a computer and internet connection in their home and that parents receive sufficient training and support to become confident users of digital technologies. The 2006 Census indicated there were 100,000 digitally disconnected families with school-aged children; the 2020 Trust’s aim is provide an opportunity for all these families to participate.

“We were impressed with Dr Williams’ synthesis of the UK experiences with New Zealand conditions in providing a very practical roadmap for New Zealand,” said Mr Zwimpfer. “We just hope that everyone takes notice of his recommendations, which are directed at us all – central and local government and well as the business and community sectors. We should now do what Kiwis are famous for – just get on with it and make sure everyone gets a return on the UFB investment.”

Marianne Archibald, a senior policy advisor at Wanganui District Council and Chair of the Wanganui Digital Leaders Forum, was also impressed with Dr Williams’ recommendations. “This is just what we are looking for in Wanganui,” she said. “We are first off the blocks with the UFB rollout, along with Whangarei, and I know that other regions will be watching us closely in how we put the fibre to work. We have a head start with Computers in Homes, Stepping UP, Aotearoa People’s Network and more recently Computer Clubhouse programmes already in place. We have also established a Digital Leaders Forum to coordinate our digital initiatives and ensure no-one misses out. Our goal is for every Wanganui citizen to be a confident user of digital technologies.”

“It is incredibly important that we don’t drop the ball when it comes to broadband applications and up-skilling our communities,” said Laurence Zwimpfer. “I believe the level of investment needed in applications and skills development is at least the same as that needed for the technology infrastructure. This is where Dr Williams’ proposal for a national digital champion and a team of sector and/or regional digital champions is really important. We will be following up this suggestion with our government and private sector partners to ensure the champions are resourced to provide bold leadership.”

Computers in Homes is an initiative of the 2020 Communications Trust, a not-for-profit community trust set up in 1996 by Wellington City Council to promote a more connected and digitally literate city. The Computers in Homes programme has received significant support from the Ministry of Education, the Community Partnership Fund and more recently the government’s Digital Literacy and Connection initiative, as well as a number of private sector providers, notably Microsoft.

Huawei Technologies New Zealand commissioned Dr Tim Williams to prepare the Connecting Communities report. Huawei provides equipment and services for Ultra-Fast broadband networks.

A copy of Dr Williams’ report can be downloaded from the TUANZ website: http://www.tuanz.org.nz/


Contacts

Laurence Zwimpfer, Computers in Homes Programme
zwimpfer@xtra.co.nz
PH 027 430 6737

Marianne Archibald, Wanganui District Council
Marianne.archibald@wanganui.govt.nz
PH (06) 3490543 ext 8024

Mark Champion, Huawei Public Affairs Manager
Mark.champion@huawei.com
PH 021 857943