A not-for-profit organisation that provides computers and broadband Internet to Melbourne’s public housing residents has called for affordable National Broadband Network (NBN) access.
Infoxchange CEO Andrew Mahar said NBN access is a critical issue, especially in times of higher unemployment, and has called for the establishment of a not-for-profit community telco to provide access for those in need.
“There needs to be a capacity for the NBN or components of the NBN to ensure that those people who are least able to afford access are still able to get access,” he said.
The group’s Digital Inclusion Initiative (DII), which is preparing for a national roll-out, has so far returned just under $6 million dollars through employment generation and reductions in Government benefits by training residents to acquire computer skills.
Mahar said providing low income communities with access to computers is essential to achieving social inclusion.
By addressing the ‘digital divide’, he said, people in need will be empowered with the ability to help themselves by performing basic tasks on computers.
The DII has connected 1680 properties, trained 1820 residents and had 1170 computers installed in two housing estates in Melbourne.
The computers range from desktops to laptops, and are all fully refurbished end-of-life corporate and government computers. Microsoft provides its Windows OS and Office software for installation on the computers.
“It means that people in low income communities will be able to access the same software that everybody else can,” Mahar said.
Melbourne’s DII projects were run in conjunction with the Victorian Government and corporate donors included NAB, ANZ, Telstra and Microsoft, but the not-for-profit now seeks support for a national roll-out.
“The connecting of communities has a significant economic return, as well as social return, to the communities, Government and the business sector,” Mahar said.
Infoexchange has plans to set up 10 demonstrations sites, in areas including Queensland, Western Sydney, Adelaide, Shepparton and Melbourne.