We live in a digital world but not everyone can afford an internet connection at home – and that’s why Murupara’s new Digital Hub is in such hot demand.
The doors officially opened in mid-September and Digital Hub Manager Ima Nuku is blown away by how many people are signing up for the wide range of courses on offer.
“There are still whanau out there who are not connected to the internet which is understandable because you have to pay a monthly fee. Some of our families have 6-10 children so the cost of living is very high. Food and rent come first so they simply can’t afford it,” she says.
The new Digital Hub is overseen by Te Runanga o Ngati Manawa and their umbrella organisation, Haututu Laboratories. It’s open to 5000 iwi members throughout the rohe as well as the general public and school children from Murupara, Kaingaroa, Te Whaiti and Galatea.
A $400,000 grant from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund paid for the initial set up and will cover operational costs for the first five years. However, Ima has also secured a $24,000 grant from BayTrust to ensure the region’s youngest tamariki and rangatahi can access all the digital skills they need.
"The majority of the courses we will offer are free but there are some like graphics, animation and content creation which require more technology and cost more to run. I was so happy to receive the BayTrust funding… No-one will miss out because they can’t afford to pay. Now we can bring in all these other programmes for our tamariki who are so eager to be here. We might need a bigger building. I don’t know!”
Courses such as content creation will help young people understand the pathways that lead to careers in the digital tech industry. Others, such as e-sports, will provide a competitive outlet, while game designing, coding, GIS mapping, live-streaming and digital wellbeing will also be offered.
“We’ll start off at level one because there are some who haven’t had the privilege of being able to use any of that technology before besides a phone and Facebook.”
The focus isn’t solely on youth either. People of all ages are welcome to improve their digital skills and a special ‘Kaumatua Net’ course was proving popular. “Kaumatua have got all these flash smartphones but they're tired of asking their mokopuna ‘how do you do this?’. We will take them through everything they need to know.”
Ima also has another project up her sleeve which she’s keen to get tech-savvy youngsters involved in.
“We know we’ve got students out there who are great graphic illustrators and artists. And we've got rows and rows of historical stories in our archives. So we want to use our students to bring them to life by developing animated stories, games and apps that tell the shared history of Ngati Manawa.”
Some rangatahi will also train alongside the professional course facilitators so they can then help new students when they first walk through the door.
“There’s a whole new world that will open up,” Ima says. “It’s about our people and our tamariki and providing them with something good. People are really loving it.”
Ima says the Digital Hub is a great way to engage youngsters who are at risk of dropping out of school. A 100% school attendance record is required before they are allowed to visit the Digital Hub and participate in the new courses.
"It's about capturing those children before they get into drugs, gangs and get up to no good. We are looking to set up an after school programme for them so they have somewhere to come without getting into trouble.
“If we can get these children on board and help them find their interest or a future career path, that’s a big win.”