Rural Digital Divide issues

Note: This is the notes from Leona Karauria a NZMIS executive member who spoke at the Net Hui South meeting 2012.

Ko Whakapunake taku Maunga

Ko Kahauroa taku Awa

Ko Ngati Kahungunu toku Iwi

Ko Te Otane te Tangata

Ko Aotearoa Tika Karauria raua ko Mere Piripi oku maatua

Ko Leona Karauria taku ingoa

I’d also like to acknowledge my indian heritage.

I’ve been invited here today to talk about improving digital inclusion and bridging the digital divides.  I’ll be offering a perspective on the social issues and economic challenges that we have and continue to experience throughout the Hawkes Bay region, i’ll also be offering my viewpoint with the Rural Broadband challenges and offering a realistic view of ways that I believe that society and Government can work together to better promote and put into effect digital inclusion.

I live in the northern region of Hawkes Bay in a small Rural Community called Nuhaka.  Nuhaka is one of 23 small Rural Communities surrounding the township of Wairoa with a population of approximately 8,500 people.  For those of you that don’t know where Wairoa is?  It is located between the cities of Gisborne and Napier.  And, since I kept hearing Ian Taylors name being mentioned yesterday, Ian is also from Wairoa.

For the past five years, I have been travelling between Cities and Communities helping to close the digital divide by providing a computer in the homes to families that previously were without a computer.  My Computers in Homes role gives me the opportunity to be part of a Community’s foundation pathways for learning technologies by supporting Communities with computer training support, technical and maintenance support, subsidised internet access and for some of the more fortunate Communities, dedicated Community Computer Training Centres.  Having a presence in these remote Communities only reinforces Computers in Homes ongoing commitment and support to strengthen families and Communities.

So let’s take a look at the digital division.  There are 2 types of digital challenges that i’d like to discuss with you, the first is about the Rural challenges and secondly, the Urban Challenges.

Working with families in low Decile Schools gives us presence within that lower socio economic Community.  Our commitment then is to ensure that every registered family is given an opportunity to have access to the internet.  As simple as that sounds, there are many variables that can hold back a family from having access to the internet.  To name a few of the social issues and rural challenges:

  • No landline in the home.
  • For families with a landline in the home, there is still no access to Broadband because they live outside of the Broadband coverage areas.
  • So Dial Up is the alternative options for many families, however depending on where you live?  Dial up connection speed rate is far too slow.  For example, the Community of Mohaka (approximately 20 minutes south of Wairoa) has a high speed rate of 6kbps.
  • Further up the road and approximately 40 minutes north of Napier, the Community of Kotemaori is a bit faster with a higher speed rate of 14kbps.
  • In between those two Communities is a little place called Raupunga, this is the home place of Ian Taylor.  I’m not going to tell you what their high speed rate is, but I’m sure you can take a wild guess?
  • Many families in our Communities have unreliable power connections.
  • Many families in our Communities don’t even have power in their homes.
  • Many families in our Communities don’t even have a home so rely on substandard housing and overcrowding.
  • Therefore a high number of families are reliant on generators.
  • With low employment opportunities comes financial insecurity.
  • Therefore high seasonal employment.
  • With transient families moving from Community to Community in search of work.

With many single parent families and benefit dependency – What sacrifices does a family make to get connected to the Internet?  We all know that alternative ISP’s and T Sticks are far too expensive.

There are many more issues that I could tell you about, however I’d probably take up the whole hour, so I have only identified a small number of challenges.

So let’s look at some urban challenges.

Urban Challenges:

Would you expect there to be issues with getting a broadband connection if you lived in a City? (open to the floor).

No, you wouldn’t expect there to be any problems in a City.  So if that was the case, then why is it that we have a number of Communities within our Cities such as Maraenui Community in Napier and Flaxmere Community of Hastings that cannot connect to a simple broadband connection?  Could it possibly be that these Communities are at the lower end of the Community’s financial scale?  Could it possibly be that these Communities have a high population of Maori and Pacific Island families?

With seasonal employment and a rising number of families relocating back into these Communities, we are able to empathise with many of them about their frustrations and their concerns about being disconnected within their homes.

Being disconnected within their homes means our children are being disconnected from learning opportunities.

By disconnecting a Community it lessens the opportunities of the local businesses that are trying to survive within that Community as well.

When we liaise within Communities, the people are always telling us what they don’t have and what the Community doesn’t have.  And then they continue to tell us what they can’t do.  For them, their problems are constantly staring them in the face.  Being told that Broadband is on the way… Being told that Broadband will now be next year, being told no, the year after that.  I don’t know?  2, 3, 4, 5 years, hopefully not 10 years.

Problems, problems, problems, is all I get to hear.

Problems within Schools because parents are not engaging enough with their children.

Problems with parents because they are feeling undervalued due to their lack of education and employment opportunities.

Problems within the home because of financial pressures.

Problems within the Community because there are limited opportunities.

Now for us (myself, Di and the rest of the Computers in Homes team), we don’t see their problems as a problem.  We see their problems as OPPORTUNITIES IN DISGUISE.  So let’s take a look where Computers in Homes initiatives have been able to provide solutions to many of the problems that i’ve mentioned previously and have most definitely helped to shape a better future for those Communities.

Being involved in a Community allows us to scope out the architecture of their environment and lay an alternative infrastructure solution to the problems that the families are experiencing and what we have been able to identify.  As a positive, we are able to contract and employ local people to provide opportunities back into their Communities.

In conclusion, I believe that more communication and information needs to be addressed into our Communities to resolve many of the technology issues that we have and continue to face.  We want to see a future where our families are given an equal learning platform that is equal to the rest of the Country.  For myself personally, I would like there to be more inclusion coming back to our Communities from our Maori Representatives.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena ra tatou katoa.

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