Technology is a key component of an ambitious project to economically and socially improve one of this country's most under-resourced areas.
The Tamaki Transformation Programme is a major opportunity to redevelop the area, says project chairman Pat Snedden, of Housing New Zealand.
More than half of the homes in the area are provided by Housing NZ.
“We saw it as an urban development opportunity, using housing as the catalyst to deliver better economic and social outcomes,” he says.
“The idea came originally from Housing NZ. We asked the question whether it would be better to align a whole lot of interests and get a better bang for the buck.”
Others involved in the project are the Education Department, the Ministry of Health, Pacific Island Affairs, Te Puni Kokiri, Police, private sector agencies, the Auckland City Council, and private investors. They have been meeting for around 18 months.
Part of the programme is a vision to create a digitally connected, literate community. As a first stage, the programme is working collaboratively with the Manaiakalani schools cluster to support and extend a successful approach at the Pt England school, in Auckland.
The cluster now comprises seven schools within the catchment, focused on increasing literacy through introducing e-learning and the adoption of technology as an enabler.
The plan is for every student from year 5 to 13 in the Tamaki catchment to have a wireless-enabled netbook and the ability to access school-based internet services from their home and school.
The learning environment will be delivered through four streams: pedagogical development; professional development; student learning; and a cloud computing wireless network.
Snedden says the results from the Pt England school have been outstanding. “The pupils have come in with low standards that have been lifted to well over the national average. We’re looking to spread this eventually to the 11 schools in the area.”
The development plan concentrates on education and job creation.
Snedden says the area is at the bottom end of social metrics. The average income in the catchment is just $17,000 per annum.
“The education project is one of the indicators that the community is serious about using technology for improvement,” he says.
Teachers raise their pupils’ capability in reading, writing, thinking, listening and speaking by publishing digital learning outcomes locally, nationally and internationally using web technology.
Snedden says most families in the catchment do not have the resources to provide broadband or computers to enable their children’s participation outside of the school environment. Fibre infrastructure for Tamaki appears unlikely in the near to medium term, so the proposed wireless network becomes a viable alternative.
The project proposes to expand on the successful results to date by conducting a pilot that will continue teaching research and development, provide 510 pupils across a number of schools wireless-enabled netbooks, establish a wide area network with repeaters on Housing New Zealand houses, and further develop the cloud solution to deliver the application environment.
Google Apps, provided by implementation specialist company Hapara, have been key to the project.
The Tamaki Transformation Programme is seeking $490,000 to complete the foundation project and prepare for subsequent project phases.
Snedden says that from Housing NZ’s perspective, it is a 20-year project involving many millions of dollars.
“Around $6 million has been spent so far on the social programmes.
“The planning stage has no formal government support, but we’re expecting a Government decision within the next two months to approve the overall context for development. This is an opportunity to knit together a lot of different approaches, both public and private.”