Digital Development: Bridging the Digital Divide

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The burgeoning literature on community based technology projects describe various initiatives that focus on bridging the digital divide. Examples of these include establishing community computing centres that provide the local community with free and easily accessed computers and lessons, re-cycled computers given to elementary school children for home use and literacy ICT projects. Outcomes of these ventures have met with varying success with an oft-cited and major challenge for these ICT projects being sustainability; or, as Gurstein (2005) notes, sustainabilities. The type of sustainabilities range from ensuring volunteer/coordinator enthusiasm and contribution, continuing the free access, maintaining and updating computers and communications technologies, and of course, overall financial support. There is general acceptance that ‘it is a good thing’ to fund such projects, often met by local and national governments, but support is usually confined to a limited timeframe and financial sustainability, therefore, becomes an issue. This paper describes the work-in-progress pilot project of New Zealand’s first mobile computing support service for voluntary and nonprofit groups. The project has recently been launched after a nearly two-year preparatory period and adopts a partnership approach. The vision for financial sustainability is a key sustainability objective that, it is hoped, will be achieved through the fostering of social learning and the consequent development of human and social capital. The paper describes the utilisation-focused evaluation that involves participation of key stakeholders from beginning to end of the pilot project and the strategies adopted for social learning to occur. Results from the formative evaluation will be presented.

Keywords: Digital Divide, ICT Projects, Sustainability, Voluntary and Nonprofit Groups, Social Learning
Stream: Technology in Community
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Digital Development

Dr. Keri Logan

Senior Lecturer,, Department of Information Systems, College of Business, Massey University Wellington Campus
Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

I am a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Information Systems, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand. I am interested in social informatics research that includes the Digital Divide,the computer learning environment in secondary schools,women working in IT and women's perceptions of their IT work environment. I am at present (in partnership with Dr Crump) evaluating data from a national survey of IT professionals and their workplace.

Dr. Barbara Crump

Senior Lecturer, Department of Information Systems, Massey University
Wellington, NI, New Zealand

Barbara Crump teaches and researches in the Department of Information Systems, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand. Her research interests have involved projects in the digital divide (evaluating the Smart Newtown community computing pilot project, followed by researching the post-implementation stage), the tertiary computing learning environment, and the culture of the computing and IS workplace. The national qualitative New Zealand computing workplace study has been followed by a quantitative study, the result of which are currently being analysed. As Visiting Scholar at the University of Malaya she undertook cross-national research involving Malaysia and New Zealand ICT workers. Evaluation of a new project addressing sustainability issues in community computing will begin in 2007.

Ref: T08P0120