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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (29 June) . . Page.. 2878..

Digital divide program

MS DUNDAS: My question is to the Chief Minister. As you would be aware, the digital divide program serves older people, migrants and disadvantaged younger people who have never learned how to use computers. You are probably aware that the tutoring offered through the digital divide program is currently oversubscribed and there are lengthy waiting lists at public libraries and community digital divide centres. Over the last few weeks, digital divide centres have received letters informing them that their roving tutor hours are to be cut back at the end of this financial year. I understand that one centre has been told that its tutoring will cease altogether at the end of the 2004-05 financial year. Can you please explain why this dramatic cutback and possible ceasing of the digital divide tutoring is going to happen?

MR STANHOPE: There has been a cut in funding for the tutoring program associated with some of the digital divide work that is being done on the placement of computers throughout the community. The expectation was that, as the level of skilling in relation to computer use and the use of the internet rose, there would be a decrease in demand within some of those organisations and institutions and that arrangements would be put in place to allow tutoring and mentoring to be part of the government's response to digital divide issues. Essentially, it was a decision taken in relation to the future of the program. Funding has been decreased. I am not entirely sure of the detail of the decrease in funding for that part or aspect of the digital divide program. I am more than happy to get the details of the current funding arrangements and provide them to the Assembly.

MS DUNDAS: I have a supplementary question. Considering the ongoing commitments of this government under the social plan to reduce poverty and exclusion, help older people into the work force and support lifelong learning, what services will be offered either to extend the digital divide program or to replace the digital divide program so that adults can learn essential computer skills, such as using the internet, sending emails and doing word processing?

MR STANHOPE: There is continued funding for issues in relation to the digital divide. I do not have the numbers available to me. It may be that they will be discussed today as we continue to debate the budget. But those commitments to the digital divide and to lifelong learning and action to address issues through the social plan are very much part and parcel of the budget that is being debated today. I have received advice from the department that something like $550 million of the funding incorporated in the budget can be identified as funding going to meet social plan commitments and priorities.

This government's commitment to the disadvantaged, including issues around access to computers and the internet, is very much part of our commitment to ensuring that we do have a truly inclusive and equal society, to an extent, I think, that no other government in Australia has sought. The social plan that we have developed, that we have generated, is the first piece of all-of-the-jurisdiction social work that any jurisdiction in Australia has ever attempted. The social plan has been acknowledged as a pre-eminent piece of long-term strategic social planning of an order that no other jurisdiction in Australia has ever attempted.

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