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Street-smart IT

Street-smart IT

Two projects in South Auckland are testaments to the imperative of key ICT players giving back to the community.

Eight children aged eight to 13 were taking turns playing games on four computers in one corner of a room, one afternoon at the Community House in Rata Vine, in Wiri, South Auckland,. The children went to the community house straight from school – and into the computer room. A few minutes before 4.30 pm, the supervisor told them the room has to be closed. The look of reluctance at having to leave was evident as the boys gathered their school bags to walk home.

The children are all residents of the Wiri state housing estate in South Auckland, and their community centre is the first pilot site for the Life Game Project (LGP).

Launched six months ago, the LGP is a collaborative effort between more than 80 local IT leaders that aims to use IT, in the form of games, to foster the development of life skills and positive lifestyle choices with the children able to play a selection of PC games at the community house.

The suite of PCs at the Rata Vine community house was set up in conjunction with the LGP and the Rawiri Residents Association and Housing New Zealand.

For Jan Maddock, community development advisor, community renewal programme, Housing New Zealand, it is the dynamics of seeing the children learn from each other and picking up critical skills that are among the positive effects of the project.

“They are learning social skills and team building skills,” says Maddock. The project has given the children access to some things that “middle class kids take for granted”, she adds. “They have got broadband at home, they can make movies, download stuff. These kids don’t have that.”

“ You are looking for increasing numeracy, increasing literacy and making learning fun,” she says.

“They are with their mates, this is their space,” says Greg Freeman, project manager, community renewal programme, Housing New Zealand, on why the project works.

The pilot at Rata Vine is made possible by contributions from a range of companies like DonateNZ for the PCs, Conbrio for networking and Vodafone for the broadband connection.

Founders of the LGP include Ian Howard and The Warehouse CIO Owen McCall and members include John Blackham, Ian Mitchell and Peter Vile.

McCall says his involvement with the LGP stems from his personal goal of giving back to the community and making this country, “a great place to live”.

“We are increasingly looking to do that with the use of technology, because that is what I know and that is what I am good at,” says McCall.

Meanwhile, over at Otara, a Computer Clubhouse is located in the campus of the Clover Park Middle School. The clubhouse provides an after-school learning environment where youths, aged 10 to 18, work with mentors on technology projects.

It is part of the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network that now has more than 100 clubhouses in 21 countries. Prime Minister John Key used a visit to the centre to announce $8.45 million funding for the next three years for digital literacy and connection. Computer Clubhouse will be one of the recipients of that money.

The Warehouse CIO Owen McCall says projects such as the Computer Clubhouse have "a tremendous spin off directly for the wider community in terms of building computer literacy and designing and creative skills, and this is very important”.

“Doing things like that may well help encourage people to go into the IT industry. They may go into design as well, [but] exposure and use of technology may start from that path.”

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Tags life game projectnot for profit cioOwen McCall

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