Sunday, March 09, 2008

Disconnected? Here are some ways to connect.

Approximately a third of Australians don’t have direct internet and/or computer access in their home, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics: Household use of Technology 2006-07.

There are many reasons for this depending on individuals and their situation; but for some Australians it is a matter of:
- Not being able to afford the technology
- Because they feel daunted by the thought of turning on the computer
- Or because their situation living situation does not allow it.

As information technology become increasingly important in today’s society- State and Federal Governments, educational institutions and social support networks are have recognised its importance and are developing resources and services to help the disconnected become connected with technology.

In Insight, we will be looking at these initiatives, what they provide and how they can help more Australians get in touch using technology.

Firstly, there is the Street-Connect Outreach Technology Bus, run by the Salvation Army and it is a response to the growing demand in access to technology.

The technology bus is a van taking technology out to the people. It was developed in 2004 and circulates through cities and towns in NSW.

Reg Hierzer - the chaplain and coordinator of the street connect outreach technology program said the internet is essential in today’s society. Almost everyone uses it to commuicate and to look for information. Services on the bus include teaching computer skills on the spot with ongoing encouragement and to help them perform tasks on the computer (eg. Paying bills, doing tax, looking for accommodation). The bus has six laptops and a printer and they are all connected wireless.

Reg Hierzer said the main aim is to encourage users to utilise computers without any assistance.

The internet is proven to be a valuable information resource, even for those who may not have a home with the website: Rebeccas community (, which offers information resources and help for the homeless to get in touch with others in the same situation. This is just one of the many websites and services online that show why the internet is such a valuable resource to use.

However for those who feel disconnected because they do not have the experience with technology or aren’t comfortable with using it, TAFE NSW offer a wide range of courses that are subsidised and funded by State and Federal Governments to those who have an important need to develop their skills.

Kinga Macpherson is the head teacher of Access and General Education at Bathurst TAFE which runs a variety of programs and classes on IT and they’re not just limited to computing skills. Skills also taught include how to use a mobile phone, sms, ATMs, troubleshooting, word processing and how to be more comfortable with technology.

Courses include Access To Work and Training, and Skills to Further Work and Study, which are available to help people brush up on their IT skills for the workforce. Unlike other courses, they are not formal but instead they're there for people to meet their own specific goals.

Kinga Macpherson said if programs and services like these didn’t exist, some people would become isolated and disconnected because a lot of what people do now is on the computers and therefore it is an important skill to develop.

She also pointed out the main problem might be that people just don’t know where to get computer access. Some local libraries and neighbourhood information centres have free computer access.

The services pointed out in this segment are just a select few that are available in Australia. There are many services out there to cater for those who don’t have the skills or technology – some classes or courses are designed specifically for different skill levels, needs or even age groups.

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