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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (21 June) . . Page.. 2341 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

$80,000 will be provided for a pilot program for public IT access centres within ACT government schools. This program will leverage off the resources of colleges and secondary schools already open to the public to enable the public to have access to IT and the Internet.

The Department of Education and Community Services will also review the outcomes of the schools as communities pilot program, which has been operating since February 2001 at eight ACT government schools. Experience gained from this program, especially in school/community partnering, will benefit the development of future digital divide initiatives.

The Department of Health, Housing and Community Care will examine the feasibility of developing a pilot program to provide a community IT facility in an ACT public housing complex. This initiative will offer the opportunity to benefit a broad range of digital divide target groups who live in our public housing complexes.

Mr Speaker, it is not just the government which has an obligation to develop solutions for the digital divide. The government considers that development and delivery of this social policy agenda should be provided through genuine partnership between government, business, the education sector and the community sector. The government has therefore agreed to the establishment of a digital divide network, comprising community, business, education and government representatives to foster, promote and develop digital divide initiatives within the community.

The chair will rotate annually among member organisations. I am pleased to announced that ACTCOSS has agreed to chair the digital divide network in 2001-2002. This appointment recognises ACTCOSS' coordinating role in broader community matters as well as its significant digital divide information initiatives, including the ACTCOSS Community IT Access Forum in November 2000 and the subsequent Community IT Access-a discussion paper on IT accessibility in the ACT, which came out in December 2000.

My department will also write to the Information Industries Development Board to request that it, in close consultation with the digital divide network, develop IT industry specific digital divide initiatives. These may include: adoption of philanthropic approaches; potential provision of equipment and/or concessional arrangements to provide IT and Internet access to disadvantaged groups; and identifying innovative technological solutions for inclusion in digital divide programs. The government intends that, where appropriate, such initiatives will be developed in the context of the government's ACT innovation framework.

To assist the community, business and education sectors as well as government organisations to develop and implement specific digital divide initiatives, my department will publish a digital divide resource kit. This resource kit will provide practical and useful information and advice about the specific requirements of the identified digital divide target groups and suggested options for the development of a broad range of initiatives.

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