This is the introduction to the Computers in Homes half-year report, now available for download (.pdf, 3.8MB) and in print.
Sixteen years ago when the first families graduated from a Computers in Homes programme, the 20/20 Trust set out on a mission to help connect every family with school-aged children to the internet and provide parents and whānau with basic digital skills. The first programme at Cannons Creek school in Porirua supported 25 families. By June 2017, nearly 19,000 families will have participated.
The expansion and longevity of the programme is largely due to the long-term financial support of successive governments and the commitment of government agencies, especially the Ministry of Education, as well as a national network of partners who deliver the programme to their local communities.
With current resourcing the programme supports around 1600 families each year, including 100 recently-arrived refugee families. Census 2013 revealed that 62,000 families with school-aged children did not have access to internet in their homes. We estimate that as at the end of 2016 there were still around 40,000 households with school-aged children not connected. We think a new approach is required.
Motivation, access, skills and trust
The component elements of Computers in Homes build on the four pillars of digital inclusion – motivation, access, skills and trust – and this is partly why the programme has been so successful.
Computers in Homes is built on the assumption that parents want the best for their children and by giving them (the parents) some basic digital skills and tools, they are better able to support their children’s learning. But we continue to discover much wider outcomes and benefits for families and their communities.
Focus on outcomes
This half-year report focuses on outcomes. Computers in Homes has supported 838 families during the first half of the 2016/17 funding year (July to December 2016). We survey a random sample of parents after 12 months to find out what difference the programme has made to their lives and that of their children.
Parents and principals: CiH contributes to education
Around 30% of families report that their children are now performing above average at school. The Ministry of Education also surveys principals of participating schools; in 2016, 86% principals acknowledged that the programme contributes ‘a lot’ or ‘quite a lot’ to families becoming more engaged with their children’s education.
Wider benefits experienced too
We also ask families to comment on any changes in their own lives. During the year, 26% reported that they had secured a job or gained a promotion and 30% reported that at least one other adult in the same household had also secured a job or a promotion. The ‘success’ stories in this report from programme participants underline just how much the programme has contributed to their digital confidence and engagement with their communities.
There is also evidence that families are using their computers and internet connections to transact with government online, supporting the Government’s Better Public Services Result 10 target. Around 70% of Computers in Homes families transacted online with Work and Income as well as with Inland Revenue during the year.
Spark Jump pre-pay meets a need
A welcome development during the last six months has been the launch by the Spark Foundation of Spark Jump, a pre-pay internet service that enables families with school-aged children to obtain internet access for $15 a month; while data is capped at 30GB, families do have the choice to top up their accounts whenever they like. This service is currently restricted to 4G mobile phone coverage areas, but is already reaching many of the low income communities supported by Computers in Homes. Families who struggle to sustain a monthly internet account are welcoming this choice.
Targeted internet connectivity
The other recent development is the impact of competition among internet service providers for internet packages. During the last 6 months, 56% of all CiH families already had an internet connection bundled with their telephone line (compared with 38% in 2015-16 and 33% the year before).
This is one reason to rethink the internet connectivity component of Computers in Homes – much more targeted assistance can be provided to the families who are hardest to reach and are unable to benefit from commercial developments. We continue to support local community wireless internet services using the local school as a hub.
Laptops, Chromebooks as well as desktops
For the last 12 months we have also implemented a more flexible approach in terms of the range of equipment being offered to families. We now included refurbished laptops as well as desktops, and also Chromebooks for families in schools with BYOD policies. We have received positive feedback from parents who have welcomed the opportunity to have access to, and learn more about, the devices used by their children at school.
This has had a direct (positive) impact on the CiH technical support budget, so while we still offer families 12-months support, the type of support now required is more about insurance and warranties than physical maintenance and software management.
Summer Learning Journey in Lower Hutt
We have also been developing a more flexible training module, by aligning with other education initiatives. A good example has been our partnership with the Te Awakairangi Access Trust in Lower Hutt to support students and their families on a Summer Learning Journey programme over the 2016-17 school holidays. The objective is to encourage students to continue reading and writing over the school holidays by blogging and responding to feedback from international mentors. Our part has been to help parents obtain access to a suitable digital device (a Chromebook in this case) and an internet connection, as well as to provide basic digital literacy training.
Digi Māmās helps young East Coast mothers
Another good example is the Digi Māmā programme in Tairāwhiti. This uses the core elements of Computers in Homes – training, digital devices, internet connectivity and support – but is being delivered by Tairāwhiti REAP to address the specific health needs of young Gisborne and East Coast mothers. We have appreciated the funding support of Hauora Tairāwhiti and the Eastland Community Trust to pilot a new integrated approach for addressing digital exclusion challenges.
Stepping UP in Public Libraries
A third example is our partnership with Public Libraries New Zealand and the rapid expansion of Stepping UP digital training modules in libraries. By the end of 2016, the number of participating libraries and community centres had increased by 75%, with nearly 80 partners now delivering the programme or planning to do so in 2017.
These models signal how we view our digital literacy programmes developing in the future – integrated with other learning, health, community and job readiness programmes – delivered by a national network of partner organisations. We welcomed three new partners specifically to support Computers in Homes in 2016/17 – Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru in Rotorua, Tairāwhiti REAP in Gisborne and Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga in Hastings.
You’ll find more on all of these topics in the full Computers in Homes half-year report download (.pdf, 3.8MB), on this website and on other 20/20 websites: 20/20 Trust | Digital Inclusion Map | ICDL | KiwiSkills | Stepping Up
Contact us if you would like a printed copy.