Bridging the Digital Divide - Case Study
31 October 2005 at 12:10 pm
A new Not for Profit business in Victoria will provide affordable computer services to small and medium sized business, and health and welfare organisations.
In the inner suburban City of Yarra a social enterprise called Yarra Assist has been launched to employ up to 25 people at the Atherton Gardens public housing estate.
Minister for Victorian Communities John Thwaites says the initiative will help break the cycle of unemployment and disadvantage by helping people into work and training and help bridge the digital divide for estate families and local health and welfare organisations.
Thwaites says the Atherton Gardens community was working with the Office of Housing and police to build neighbourhood support networks that had resulted in reduced crime and an improved feeling of safety on the estate.
Reports of drug use, vandalism, wilful damage and loitering had dropped significantly since the introduction of the Neighbourhood Renewal “self-help” program which had created jobs and training opportunities.
The new Yarra Assist enterprise will provide affordable computer support services and offer Internet access and computer hardware at affordable prices to local businesses, health and welfare organisations.
The Minister says Yarra Assist is helping people to help themselves, and it is projects like this that can permanently break the cycle of unemployment and disadvantage.
People on housing estates like Atherton Gardens are among the most disadvantaged groups in the community. Many face language and cultural barriers and a lack of education or vocational skills.
Yarra Assist will initially employ 10 people and plans to increase its staff to 25.
Yarra Assist flows from Electronic – Atherton Community Enterprise (e-ACE), a project that received an $860,000 Community Support Fund grant in 2002 to address the “digital disadvantage” suffered by low-income families.
Each of the 600 participating Atherton Gardens households received a recycled PC, email access and a community intranet, which included news in multiple languages, and affordable access to the Internet.
Through the use of technology the project aims to can improve the social, economic and environmental circumstances of the public housing estate community giving residents the opportunity to learn new skills, adapt to technology and gain better access to health and employment services.
Infoxchange Australia has extended the e-ACE model to a number of other public housing estates and Neighbourhood Renewal areas including nearby Collingwood, Richmond and Broadmeadows.