Professor George Benwell, Department of Information Science

Title: "Closing the digital divide in rural New Zealand"

In June 2000 Cabinet stated a vision for "social and economic inclusion and ICT" that states: "All New Zealanders, either as individuals or as members of communities, have the opportunity to access and effectively use current and emerging information and communications technologies. This will enable individuals and communities to participate fully in the economic, social, educational, cultural and democratic opportunites available in an information society." Some individuals and communities in New Zealand, however, have better opportunities to access ICT than others. This seminar will review the initiatives since 2000 to deliver high-speed ICT to outlying communities; from initial pilot studies in Southland, the Otago Community Trust's efforts to connect the region's schools, and our efforts to assist the Southland and Otago regions in the Project PROBE (provincial broadband extension) process. There will also be a review of the broadband roll-outs that have just begun in Southland, Northland, Wairarapa and Taranaki. To close, this seminar will describe a new research effort to develop an index of digital connectedness that will include issues of demand, demographics, physical access, skills, attitudes and content to describe the changing shape of ICT in New Zealand and identify geographic areas and groups of people that need more help gaining equal and equitable access to ICT.