Seniors gain broadband, PCs in $15 million program

Queensland floods down some installatons, but NEC Australia celebrates installation success

Seniors use PCs at kiosks rolled out by NEC Australia.

Seniors use PCs at kiosks rolled out by NEC Australia.

NEC Australia has completed rolling out the Federal Government’s $15 million Broadband for Seniors initiative, marked by the installation of the 2000th live site in Victoria last week.

The program was first initiated in July 2009 and managed by a consortium of companies comprising NEC Australia, the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association, the University of the Third Age Online (U3A) and Adult Learning Australia.

The initiative aimed to provide elderly Australians with greater access to computers, provide training in using technology and build social inclusion among seniors, however, speculation is rife that speculation that the program may be coming to an end in June this year.

Funding for the program, which guidelines indicate will run out in June, has not been extended as yet, with a map of the program’s kiosk sites showing there are no new sites planned.

Approximately 94,000 seniors have used the kiosks and accessed 43,000 online lessons on using computers, the internet, email and word processing since the initiative began. The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, opened the final site last week at the Yarraville Senior Citizens Centre in Victoria.

NEC rolled out two computers per kiosk, for a total of 4000 PCs installed across Australia, at a one-off support cost of $10,000 each covering broadband installation and training programs. The vast majority of PCs - a mix of PowerMate P4010 and P6000 all-in-one computers - were installed in NSW and Victorian senior citizens centres, which were chosen based on demonstrated need at locations willing to provide the service free.

“We have seen a fantastic response from both volunteers and community organisations wanting to get involved,” NEC Australia group manager, David Cooke, said in a statement. “One major outcome emerging is the sheer number of older Australians connecting with distant family members both in Australia and overseas.

“Many participants have also told us that the kiosks have not only helped them feel more connected with their communities, families and friends, but also helped them lose the fear of using computers, and helped them embrace technology as a new way of keeping in touch.”

Cooke said the initiative was part of a wider ploy to develop IT literacy among seniors as the Federal Government’s begins to push other technology-dependent services such as e-health.

Some of the kiosks were affected by the Queensland floods, prompting NEC to establish a response team to rectify any downed computers or internet connections. No hardware was damaged.

In April last year, pro-euthanasia group Exit International and political group the Australian Pirate Party, held eight “hacking masterclasses” at which they taught seniors how to bypass the government’s proposed mandatory ISP-level internet filter.

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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