Digital Development: Bridging the Digital Divide
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
Dr. Keri Logan
Senior Lecturer,, Department of Information Systems, College of Business, Massey University Wellington Campus
Dr. Barbara Crump
Senior Lecturer, Department of Information Systems, Massey University