PCs filter down to poor

Free computers are being given to poor New Zealanders to help bridge the digital divide.

Free computers are being given to poor New Zealanders to help bridge the digital divide.

About 2000 surplus PCs from various government departments are being distributed across the East Coast to schools and community groups.

Telecom has also offered to set up a CommunityNet programme, which will run in the Tarawhiti area as an extension of its nationwide SeniorNet programme.

The Government-Telecom initiative will see grants and free Xtra connections and use for various community groups in the area.

It follows an earlier initiative in July, through which 25 families in Porirua and 25 families in Panmure received recycled computers, plus training and technical support, under a pilot Computers in Schools project,

This $10,000 project is being run by the 2020 Communications Trust, which promotes IT use.

IT Minister Paul Swain says such initiatives will target community groups as the country cannot afford more comprehensive schemes for the poor.

He believes that as computer use increases, their price will drop and eventually eveyone will want and have one, as was the case with colour televisions.

Until then, community groups, homework centres, libraries and marae will receive priority.

Swain is also keen on easing the digital divide between city and country, saying talks are under way with Telecom about bandwith provision.

The minister is also talking to other private sector organisations about potential pilot schemes using a range of technologies in different areas.

But the issue of who pays would have to be looked at, as "the governemnt does not have the answer".

Swain praises the telecentre on the Kapiti coast, which he says provides a useful model for "little cyberbusinesses" to operate, using shared facilities.

In Britain, meanwhile, the government has announced a Computers in Reach programme, offering 100,000 recycled PCs for poorer families and a $35 million programme to wire up poorer areas. The first scheme, in Kensington, Liverpool, offers 2000 PCs on free loan to residents, with cheap internet access and training opportunities.

The UK government has also announced its intention to crreate 1000 learndirect centres and 1000 ICT learning centres by 2001, with free online training for the unemployed.

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