Helping students with learning online
The digital divide in Aotearoa is a key concern for us at InternetNZ, and a driver of milestone projects such as our recent 5 point plan for digital inclusion. At the same time, we use the funds from sales of .nz domain names to support projects working on the ground to overcome these issues.
In Murupara and Kawerau, a group of local school principals joined forces with their local Councils to address the disparity that exists in rurally isolated schools. They formed Te Aka Toitu Trust, and with the help of our grant programme and funding from Iwi Runanga, Bay Trust, Whakatane District Council, MOE, and Eastern Bay Energy Trust, they set out to support digital access and connectivity for local students.
Levelling the field
In affluent areas, every student owns a digital device and has unlimited Internet access. This is not the case in rural Aotearoa, where a large proportion of predominantly Māori students experience issues with access to affordable devices and Internet connectivity. Kids are missing out and being left behind.
What has been happening?
To date, the project has seen the installation of 3 towers in Murupara and the surrounding district along with 1 in Kawerau township and an upgrade to an existing tower.
At the same time, 130 CPE (customer-premises equipment) dishes and routers have been installed on homes in and around Murupara and 27 in Kawerau.
Financing has been arranged to get devices into the hands of 195 children in local households. They have set up prepay broadband with no contract, no credit checks and no set-up charges. The Network for Learning (N4L) devices allow students to log in to the school’s network from home. The devices are learning focused, enabling access to the same learning environment students use at school.
Reaping the benefits
The Trust believes the benefits of connectivity in the home flow out to the whanau, and empower local communities.
According to Project Manager Keld Hunia, working with local iwi groups and building trust with whanau was crucial to the success of the project as well as working with an ISP contractor. Having strong data was also essential, helping to secure trust and confidence from the local community in order to move forward with the project.
Covid-19 has delayed the completion of the hardware element of the project, with increased demand on the ISP installer. However, the pandemic has highlighted the vital and timely nature of this mahi. Analysis will be needed to assess the extent of the work carried out on behalf of the Ministry during lockdown so that the Trust can reassess where the need lies before completing the second installation phase.