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Primary school students in Melbourne's inner west are conquering the digital divide thanks to the combined support of the Bracks Government, corporate donors and philanthropic groups.
Minister for Victorian Communities Peter Batchelor today launched a pilot project that will provide refurbished, internet-connected computers to 400 disadvantaged families for use in their homes.
Mr Batchelor said the Bracks Government had committed up to $740,000 to the project. Other contributions and resources have come from the Gandel Charitable Trust, The Victoria University, Microsoft, the Pratt Foundation, Smorgon Steel and the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.
Mr Batchelor said the notion of a digital divide was the 21 st century equivalent of the divide between those who went to school and those who did not in the late 19 th and early 20 th century.
"The haves and have-nots of the 21 st century are those who are computer literate and those who are not. As technology continues to evolve, the Internet is becoming increasingly important as an essential household and business resource and a gateway to new opportunities."
"But the reality is that there are a lot of families out there, particularly in lower income areas like the western suburbs, who are missing out on opportunities because they simply cannot afford a computer or Internet access," Mr Batchelor said.
Led by Terry Bracks, the Computer for Every Child Project has already provided computers, Internet access and training to about 70 families from Sunvale and St Albans Primary Schools . The project will now be extended to families at Sunshine East, Braybrook, Sunshine North and Dinjerra Primary Schools .
Mr Batchelor said participating families had to agree to computer training and pay $50. There were large numbers of Horn of Africa and Vietnamese families participating in the pilot.
Footscray MP Marsha Thomson said the Computer for Every Child Project was a good example of what can be achieved when government works collaboratively with the private sector and the not-for-profit sector to assist disadvantaged groups.
Ms Thomson said the participating families were predominantly English-as-a-second-language speakers and their computer skills were very low.
"People now use the Internet for a wide range of purposes including research, online banking, homework, paying bills, job seeking and keeping in touch with one another. This project delivers practical outcomes that will improve these families' life opportunities," Ms Thomson said.
Fundraising from the corporate and philanthropic sectors will be led by Technology Access for Social Development Australia, a not-for-profit company with tax-deductible status and progress will be evaluated by a group from the School of Education at Victoria University .
Mr Batchelor said the project was based on a successful program in Israel which has seen over 18,000 computers installed in the homes of disadvantaged Israeli families.
Last updated: 31 March 2008
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