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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1365 ..

MRS BURKE (continuing):

establishment of a pilot program for public IT access centres within ACT government schools (for example, using centre schools arrangements like colleges and secondary schools already open to the public after school hours); and

a pilot program to provide a community IT facility in a public housing complex.

The only constant is change. We must ensure that we include and bring along as many people as possible through any process of change in our society to ensure that people do not feel isolated. There are many facilities on line that low socioeconomic groups, older persons and people with disabilities cannot currently access-for example, employment opportunities or banking on line. This issue is about community-the potential for people to come together in an environment where they may not otherwise do so.

Access to technology is a self-empowering tool for anyone and everyone, from young and old alike to unemployed, to people with a disability. The fact that the ACT has the highest ownership of computers per capita in Australia, bar the Northern Territory, is no reason for governments to become complacent. Indeed, this gives strength to the fact that there is even more reason to ensure that the have-nots do not feel a sense of isolation already exacerbated by their socioeconomic situation.

And, finally, we as a government are about the business of building social capital. We do this because we believe we have a social commitment to our community, not just as politicians but as real people identifying with the needs of the community. I thank my colleagues.

MR CORBELL (3.37): The Labor Party is pleased to join this debate today, simply because the issue of the digital divide is one which will be a growing equity and social justice issue for many ACT governments to come. The Labor Party is strongly of the view that Canberra can become the first city in the world to have effectively bridged the digital divide. That should be both our goal and the challenge we present to ourselves. Our relative affluence and our relatively compact size allow us to address that challenge in a far more hands-on way than many larger cities interstate or internationally can.

The government's proposals in relation to the digital divide and the work conducted by the task force of which Ms Burke was a member are certainly welcome. But it does not in and of itself say that this situation is under control. Indeed, I would like to remind members in this place that it was the Labor Party that initially raised the issue of the digital divide in public debate last year when we started to call on the government to look at the issue. We recognised this ourselves in the establishment of an information society portfolio-as compared to an information economy portfolio or an information technology portfolio-to recognise the very wide-ranging aspects that information society is bringing to how we as citizens conduct ourselves in our city and in our community.

The response from the government at that time was that the Labor Party was playing catch-up; that the Labor Party did not realise that we had a high degree of connectedness; that the Labor Party did not realise that we were doing all sorts of wonderful things with TransACT. Unfortunately, the government's response along those lines really missed the point, because what the Labor Party was highlighting at that time was the need to address the unmet needs of those people who did not have access to information technology in

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