Porirua church combines internet with education
A CHURCH community centre is one of five places where Porirua residents are joining the internet movement for the first time – and for free.
Pastor Yvonne Fisk, of the North City Oasis Community Centre, is one of many involved in the Digital Porirua Project helping people who at home have limited or no access to the net.
Mrs Fisk says the project – a network of community computer access points run by a trust – enables the Oasis centre to educate 40-50 children a week in after-school sessions. They play mathematical and literacy games, introducing them to the basics of using a computer.
Mrs Fisk was allocated three computers about a year ago, followed six months later by another four, for children, mothers and other adults to access.
“It was to provide services to support the community.” Mrs Fisk has watched a six-year-old who six months ago couldn’t even turn on a computer screen; learn to access games and applications himself.
Areas like Porirua East, Titahi Bay and Ascot Park have little or no connection to internet or computers compared to the 95%-99% connectedness in other parts of the city including Whitby, Plimmerton and Papakowhai.
Porirua East has less than 30% and Titahi Bay less than 50% of residents with internet access.
The Digital Porirua Trust has members from Porirua City Council, Porirua City Community IT Educational Trust, Chamber of Commerce, Whitireia Community Polytechnic and others.
City council economic development manager Ray Cowles says the Digital Porirua Project allows the community to be more confident and to understand the benefits of being connected to the net.
“It’s crucial to the economic development of the city,” he says. “We have half of the city not realising their potential.”
Mr Cowles says Porirua people are using the skills gained to obtain better-paying jobs.
“We’ve had people who have come up to us once getting [a] certificate and say, ‘this is my first award ever’.”
Other community access points where people are able to connect to the internet and to learn are Porirua Gospel Chapel, Mana Education Centre, Porirua RSA and Hongoeka Marae.
The Digital Porirua Project was funded in 2008 with an education grant from HP worth $US400,000 – comprising approximately $55,000 cash and $345,000 of HP products – including servers, desktop and laptop computers and printers.
The project is helping 400 people a year and is due to hit its 1000th family this year.