Computers in Homes funding ends; new Family Connect pilots

Laurence Zwimpfer
Programme Chair Laurence Zwimpfer

The Computers in Homes Annual Report 2017 is now available (see below); regrettably the end of funding leaves 40,000 families with school age children still offline, but there’s some good news too.

STOP PRESS: Labour/NZ First Coalition will restore funding for Computers in Homes

Laurence Zwimpfer once again introduces the report.

Comment from Programme Chair, Laurence Zwimpfer MNZM

I am pleased to report that we have again exceeded our funded target for programme participants in 2016–17. During the year we were funded by the Ministry of Education to support 1500 families through our mainstream Computers in Homes (CiH) programme and 130 new refugee families. With the support of our partners, a number of whom were able to allocate additional resources, a total of 1805 families graduated (nearly 11% more than the funded target). We have also maintained matching support in terms of voluntary and discounted services for business and community partners.

CiH in 21 regions

In 2016-17, we supported families in 21 targeted regions, all of which were identified in the 2013 Census as digitally under-served communities. The demand for the programme continues to exceed the funding available – we continue to give priority to families in decile 1 to 3 school areas in the most digitally disconnected communities, but we recognise that there are many families in higher decile areas who are just as digitally disadvantaged.

40,000 households with school children without the internet

Many of these families are in isolated rural communities and this creates an ongoing challenge in providing affordable internet connections. Census 2013 revealed a total of 62,000 families with dependent children without internet connections in their homes. We believe this represents around 20% of all school-aged children. Since 2013, Computers in Homes has supported over 6000 families, but many children are still missing out. We estimate that 40,000 households with school-aged children still do not have a broadband internet connection in their homes.

CiH funding changes

Government funding for the mainstream Computers in Homes (CiH) programme came to an end on 30 June 2017 although funding for the refugee CiH programme has been extended for a further three years. The Minister had signalled a year ago that government funding for the mainstream CiH programme would end in 2017, even though we know that many households with school-aged children still do not have an internet connection. We welcomed the Minister’s recent announcement of a new digital technologies curriculum and the substantial funding package to support its introduction into schools. However, we are concerned that families who do not have broadband internet connections in their homes will face even greater challenges in supporting their children’s learning.

We understand the dilemma that government faces. The Ministry of Education is responsible for funding schools and children. Computers in Homes targets adults and homes. We have appreciated support from the Ministry of Education for most of the last seventeen years; educationalists acknowledge the importance of parents and grandparents in supporting their children’s learning, but from a funding perspective this is not strictly the responsibility of the Ministry of Education.

We appreciated the Minister’s introduction to the agency of government responsible for adult education – the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) – and are delighted to report that TEC has agreed to fund a new pilot programme initially in Auckland, called Family Connect. This will result in nearly 700 adults being supported on a digital learning journey.

Family Connect – a new digital literacy programme

Family Connect has many of the same elements as Computers in Homes – access to digital devices and home internet connections as well as introductory training in the use of digital technologies. Our focus for Family Connect is on adults with low or no education qualifications; our long experience with Computers in Homes has demonstrated that adults who are given the opportunity to access and use digital technologies become more confident in pursuing other education opportunities and in securing jobs.

Spark Jump – affordable internet

Connecting families to the internet is a core element of all our digital literacy programmes. While most New Zealanders now have the option of accessing the internet, many cannot afford to do so. Our research has consistently identified ‘affordability’ as the main reason why families decline the internet component of our programmes, even with a generous subsidy. The introduction of the Spark Jump pre-pay internet service for families with children up to age 18 in September 2016 was a turning point in making broadband internet services affordable for every family. We are pleased to be working in partnership with the Spark Foundation to deliver this service to families who are unable to obtain or sustain an ‘on-account’ service.

Stepping UP and KiwiSkills

In this report we also include updates for our two related digital literacy initiatives Stepping UP and KiwiSkills ICDL. During the year, Stepping UP has continued to expand with regular programmes now being offered in 65 public libraries and community centres; our long-term goal is to expand to all public libraries (over 200). We also achieved our year two (2016) target for the KiwiSkills programme with a further 2500 jobseekers registered: our goal for 2017 is to register a further 3500. During the year, 58 KiwiSkills delivery partners supported these jobseekers progress towards an ICDL qualification. We have continued to receive strong interest from secondary schools where many students are reaching the end of their compulsory schooling without any recognisable digital literacy qualification. We think it is important that all school leavers are able to demonstrate that they have at least a basic level of competency with digital productivity tools.

More information

The Annual Report is at the printers and we will be distributing printed copies shortly. Meanwhile you can download or read it on line.

Download the complete Computers in Homes Annual Report 2017 (PDF, 5.2 MB)