Digital divide hard to cross

23:00, Feb 10 2014

The digital divide between people with home access to the internet and those who do not use computers is persisting in Palmerston North.

Computers in Homes Manawatu-Horowhenua co-ordinator Sarah Lee urged the city council's community development committee yesterday to be aware of the need to encourage digital literacy in all of its plans and strategies.

She said the 2013 census data showed the number of households in Palmerston North that were connected to the internet had grown from 60 per cent to 74 per cent in seven years.

But the improvement masked the fact that there were still 7809 households without access.

It meant 14 per cent of families with school-aged children were missing out.

The distribution was uneven throughout the city.


In Takaro, 23 per cent of families had no internet. In Ashhurst-Fitzherbert, it was 6 per cent without.

Across the wider region, Horowhenua scored lowest, with 25 per cent without access, Rangitikei sat on 23 per cent, Tararua on 21 per cent, and Manawatu on 14 per cent.

Ms Lee said Computers in Homes was working to put recycled computers into homes, provide adults with training and help with internet and technical support, but could only allocate 50 computers throughout its region.

"We are chipping away at the problem very slowly."

There were already waiting lists at four schools from people hoping to benefit from the next financial year's allocation of places on the scheme.

Ms Lee said a recent joint project with the City Library offering "Stepping Up" classes in computer literacy had been a great success.

It was becoming increasingly difficult for people who did not have a computer or know how to work one to participate in society, including being able to prepare a CV, applying for jobs, and even meeting Work and Income requests for information, she said.

Educators were increasingly expecting around-the-clock access to the internet as a key part of children's learning, but when many families could not provide the tools, those children were as risk of being left behind.

Manawatu Standard