An initiative to provide disadvantaged families with free wireless broadband has made a significant difference to their children’s achievement at school. It also improved attendance and enabled the students to participate in more activities.
Now the pilot programme, which was a partnership between Variety - the Children’s Charity, and 2degrees is being rolled out across the country.
The trial was held in Auckland last year and saw 2degrees and Variety provide 25 families with internet access to help their children’s learning.
Results showed 82% of caregivers said their children achieved more at school and 86% of children were able to participate in more school activities. There was an improvement in attendance of 50% and 82% of children said they enjoyed school more once they had internet at home.
Lorraine Taylor, CEO of Variety, said: "Providing children and families most in need with the right support is our top priority. The pilot was deliberately small, with the sole purpose of testing the programme to ensure it would make a lasting and significant effect on the lives of some of our most vulnerable children, and their families - and it absolutely has.
“As the world becomes more connected, there is a significant group of children, of families, in this country who are being locked out. This programme addresses that divide. The little things many of us take for granted, like staying in touch with family and friends abroad and paying bills online; and for the kids, being able to check public transport times online so that they can catch the bus to school, or to be able to look up a website a teacher has given them as a resource for learning – is simply out of reach for families who do not have broadband access.”
Feedback from those taking part showed that having access to the internet also brought benefits for the whole family. This included making it easier for 95 percent of caregivers to search and apply for jobs online. In addition, 85 percent were now able to pay their bills online and 90 percent found it easier to manage their finances.
Now 100 more families across Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are being given a broadband scholarship by 2degrees and Variety.
The extended roll-out will continue in Auckland on 23 May at Waitakere College and 29 May at Wymondley Road School, where a total of 50 families from across the city will each receive free access to the internet. This follows a roll-out in other areas of the country, including Christchurch and Wellington.
The newly-announced partnership will run for the next three years as 2degrees and Variety work together to identify and assist struggling families across the country.
Stewart Sheriff, CEO of 2degrees, explained: “Our partnership with Variety is centred around fighting for fair, with the purpose of making a real difference to the lives of disadvantaged families across New Zealand. For most of us, the internet is a part of every day life and something which we take for granted.
“Hearing that one in five parents have cut back on food in order to pay the broadband bill is truly shocking. We want to provide parents with the neccessary support to make sure they aren’t faced with a situation like that again.”
This year the programme will expand to four times the size of last year’s pilot and it is expected to continue to grow next year.
The programme is available to families who are struggling financially, including those who previously didn't have broadband, as well as those who had it but were suffering financial strain from having to keep up with the associated costs.