Digital Divide or Digital Opportunity?
18 December 2002 at 12:12 pm
Bridging the digital divide to realise the full benefits of information and communications technology (ICT) would only occur through a shared effort according to the Federal Government and already business and community sectors are getting together to help!
Speaking at the launch of the Cisco Systems Digital Divide Cross Sector Working Group in Sydney, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Alston congratulated the companies, community organisations and government agencies that are contributing their time and energy to working together on existing and new projects.
The aim is to ensure equitable access to technology and impart the necessary skills and knowledge to enable people to use that technology with confidence.
In particular, Cisco Systems has been congratulated for its leadership and initiative in establishing the Working Group and in commissioning the Positive Outcomes team to facilitate the process.
This Working Group provides an opportunity for companies, Not for Profit organisations and government agencies to work together on projects which target groups who may be at risk of missing out on the opportunities and benefits of active participation in the information economy.
These groups include older Australians, people on low incomes, those with a low level of formal education and people in remote areas.
Projects currently being run by The Smith Family, The Inspire Foundation and Work Ventures have already had considerable success in this area and have the potential to do much more. These projects, and others of their ilk, require a willingness and commitment by all three sectors to work together for a common purpose, leadership and the ability to turn a vision into reality.
Minister Alston says the collaboration by The Smith Family and Cisco Systems on the Ignite website is an excellent example of what can be achieved in this area. Ignite aims to increase the educational opportunities of 9-15 year old students on the Smith Family’s education support program, Learning for Life. Ignite provides password-protected access to educational resources such as virtual tutoring and links to educational sites, a bulletin board, chat facilities, and e-mail in a youth friendly setting.
Alston says the important role played by the Australian Information Industries Association (AIIA) should also be acknowledged. The AIIA and its members have been strong corporate leaders in areas such as education, training and waste management/recycling issues, and their membership of this group shows their ongoing commitment to leadership.
There is scope to build on the positive initiatives by the corporate sector in this area – initiatives which are not solely about financial contributions, but are focused on the ability of the government, corporate and community sectors to work together towards common goals.
The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) will create opportunities for its members to work collaboratively with Government and the community to address equity and access issues in the Information Economy.
AIIA’s James McAdam says the Digital Divide is a critical issue for the industry and the working group is an important mechanism to foster greater collaboration and shared learning between the corporate, community, education and government sectors.
A survey undertaken by AIIA last year found that on an annual basis Australian ICT companies invest over $140 million in cash and in-kind support to ICT education and training alone. This commitment is realised through awards, sponsorships, equipment grants, work experience placements and other innovative programs.