Microsoft New Zealand Announces $1.2 Million Technology Boost

Press Release: Nearly 5,000 families will benefit from digital literacy and skills training following a $1.2 million injection of funding and software by Microsoft New Zealand to the 2020 Communications Trust and regional partners. The grant, which includes $800,000 in funding and software worth $400,000, was announced at a Parliamentary function today and will be used to fund digital literacy and information technology skills training programmes throughout the country over the next three years.

“ICT has an important role to play in raising New Zealand’s prosperity,” says Kevin Ackhurst, Microsoft New Zealand’s General Manager and Chair of NZICT. “We are committed to playing an active role in New Zealand’s economic growth and social opportunity.”

“At the heart of our efforts is the belief that everyone should have access to technology and all the benefits it brings. This programme and partnership, and the many other initiatives we support throughout New Zealand, will help to foster innovation and quality education and enable jobs and opportunities,” Mr. Ackhurst says.

The new initiative builds on the 2020 Trust’s highly successful Computers in Homes programme, which provides a computer, internet connection, training and support for families in low income and disadvantaged communities. Microsoft New Zealand’s investment will enable 4,800 families who have been through Computers in Homes to extend their skills and integrate ICT further into their work and lives, through training delivered by the Trust and eight regional partners.

The programme, called ‘Stepping UP: ICT for a better future,’ will this year focus on Porirua, Wanganui and Gisborne, where a proactive and collaborative approach to enable digital technology access and literacy for the community has been embraced by local government and the private and community sectors. Other areas to be covered as part of the three-year funding include Wairoa, Northland, South Auckland, the West Coast of the South Island and the Ngati Porou East Coast region of the North Island.

Computers in Homes has been strengthening ICT capability and accessibility in low income and disadvantaged communities for the past eight years, connecting parents with their children’s learning and providing families with the skills and confidence to use technology.

“There is a clear link between ICT access at home and educational achievement, and if we expect to prosper in an ever-more-rapidly changing world, we cannot afford to leave such a large section of our society in the mid-20th Century. We’re delighted to find a partner in Microsoft that supports our position,” says Earl Mardle, Chair of the 2020 Trust.

“Computers in Homes has been our flagship programme for some time now with support for more than 4,000 families from the Ministry of Education, the Community Partnership Fund and a number of others. However the 2006 Census has revealed that more than 100,000 families with school-aged children still don’t have a computer or internet connection in their homes,” Mr. Mardle says.

To address this ‘digital divide,’ the Trust today launched the Computers in Homes 100,000 Challenge.

“As a nation we need to ensure that no child misses out and that every parent has the opportunity to become digitally literate, enhancing their own education and employment opportunities. We’re challenging all New Zealanders – the Government, businesses, local authorities and communities – to get these 100,000 families connected and help us make the ‘digital divide’ a thing of the past,” Mr. Mardle says.

About 2020 Communications Trust

The 2020 Communications Trust was established by the Wellington City Council in 1996 and expanded into a national programme in 2001. The Trust’s mission is to bridge the ‘digital divide’ by helping all New Zealanders get access to the Internet and develop the skills necessary to participate in an increasingly digital society. More information can be found online at http://www.2020.org.nz.

About Microsoft Unlimited Potential

Microsoft Unlimited Potential is a global community-based learning programme focused on extending IT-skills and economic opportunities to enable young people and adults to realise their potential. Through cash grants, software donations, technology solutions and specialised curriculum, Unlimited Potential supports projects across the U.S. and around the world, creating opportunities that can transform communities and help bring the benefits of technology to 250 million underserved people worldwide by 2010. More information can be found online at http://www.microsoft.com/unlimitedpotential.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.