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Funding boost for Tairawhiti Technology Trust (TaiTech)

Ending ‘digital apartheid’.

A $400,000 funding boost for Tairawhiti Technology Trust (TaiTech) will create a regional digital hub here and end “digital apartheid”, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

The funding was part of a $2m outlay, announced by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones yesterday, for five regional digital hubs — one to be build around TaiTech Trust.

“I've been impressed by the philanthropic nature of the work this organisation does,” Mr Jones said.

“For families in the Tairawhiti, if we've learned anything, it's how the electronic highway has enabled us as families, communities and businesses to keep functioning in amongst Covid contagion.”

Isolated East Coast communities would benefit hugely, he said.

“There shouldn't be digital apartheid in Aotearoa. The people who live in the plush suburbs of Auckland should not have endlessly better digital opportunities than the whanau living in the Tairawhiti, or indeed, in my case the Tai Tokerau.”

Funding is part of the PGF's local digital connectivity funding package of $21m which, as well as establishing regional digital hubs, helps connect marae to the internet.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting Alert Level 4 lockdown has shown that good internet connectivity is crucial,” said Mr Jones.

“While we were staying in our bubbles at home a great many of us used the internet to work, shop, pay bills, keep in touch with loved ones and learn.

“It is something many of us take for granted, yet some communities have limited ability to access the internet or the tools to use it for financial reasons or because of their location.

“Access to the internet is critical for regions' economies and wellbeing and will be even more so as we seek to recover from the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“That's why I am announcing funding of $2 million for five regional digital hubs.

“The hubs will allow people to connect for business development and support, and offer services such as free Wi-Fi, co-working spaces and guidance on use of the internet for business and skills development purposes.”

TaiTech treasurer Maurice Alford said trustees were delighted to receive support to continue and extend the trust's efforts to “make a difference” in the community.

“The focus of this funding is to support business opportunities at a grassroots level, with a particular emphasis on the difference that digital technologies can make.

“We know this will be very timely because of the impact Covid-19 is likely to have for business in the region, so we hope our efforts will support existing businesses to understand such online opportunities as omni-channel marketing. We expect that will complement our work to support new grassroots business opportunities.

“The trustees are particularly pleased to have the five-year timeframe for funding as that will help us create a sustainable path forward.”

Mr Alford and chairwoman Carolyn Carpendale will act as co-project managers leading up to completion of building renovations and other preparation work needed before the project is officially launched.

CONNECTED: Carolyn Carpendale, Polly Crawford and Maurice Alford from Tairawhiti Technology Trust are ready to improve the region's digital economy after the trust received $400,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund to create a digital hub. The trust is based at Kaiti Mall and will be able to improve its facilities before offering services for people to connect for business development and support, as well as offering free Wi-Fi, co-working spaces and guidance on use of the internet for business and skills development purposes. Picture by Paul Rickard