Technology for social justice

Report finds Wired project improving residents' quality of life

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The final evaluation report for the Wired Community @ Collingwood project has been released, recommending the project “be applauded” for its efforts towards social inclusion.
Launched in August 2008, the $3.6 million Wired Community @ Collingwood initiative is the largest project of its kind in Australia, focussing on improving the digital proficiency and online access of the 620 households in the Collingwood public housing estate in inner Melbourne.
Initiated by Infoxchange and involving government and corporate partners, the project uses a whole-of-community approach to eradicate the digital divide by providing access to computer hardware, software, affordable internet and user support for residents.
The report, prepared by independent consultants Isoquant, is the final of a two-year evaluation of the project that focussed on the impact on residents and the efficacy of the project in forming the basis of a sustainable social enterprise.
Dr Robyn Broadbent, a lead researcher at Isoquant, says the research team spent a lot of time on the estate attending neighbourhood lunches, training sessions, playgroups, celebrations, and generally hanging out to discover the full impact on local residents of wiring up the estate.
“This is a project that made a difference to people’s lives,” says Dr Broadbent, “a significant difference, and they were able to articulate that. It made a difference to their health, their wellbeing, their access to information, to their ability to connect to family and community, to their ability to just feel connected".
“The digital divide is very real, and if you’re a part of it you actually know that you are missing out,” says Dr Broadbent.
The report cites a range of testimonies from residents as to how activities like streaming radio or reading news in their native language, sharing photos with loved ones, accessing health information, looking for work, online banking or dealing with government agencies online, has impacted their quality of life.
Amongst the report’s recommendations, it suggests that the cost of providing affordable internet access to people that experience serious barriers to social and economic participation is outweighed by the gains to the wider community, and that the digital divide program framework should be applauded and deserves the full attention of Government to ensure its ongoing implementation in other communities.
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Filed in: Digital skills | Tagged as: Digital Inclusion , research

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