Councils helping bridge digital divide

A ground-breaking move by local councils to join hands with entrepreneurs aims to help Western Bay people maximise digital opportunities.

Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty District Council have partnered with Venture Centre to manage and implement the Digital Enablement Programme.

The programme aims help people in the sub-region reach their full potential in business, social interaction and economic growth through access to, and utilisation of, digital technologies.

Founded by Jo Allum, Pascale Hyboud-Peron and Steven Vincent, the Venture Centre in Tauranga is a hub tailored for IT enterprises to work collaboratively or alone in an open sharing environment.

Jo Allum says this provides the perfect base for managing the DEP, which focuses on joining people of all ages with ideas and connects like-minded people with the resources, knowledge and support to reach success in business and personally.

She says some people new to businesses can be intimidated by technology and as a result they fail to explore the digital potential for their business growth.

“We see the Venture Centre's digital experience and the tools we provide as the bridge across that technology divide.''

Pascale Hyboud-Peron is excited at the entrance of local authorities into the digital enablement space, describing the joint venture between Tauranga and Western Bay as ‘ground-breaking'.

Councils have historically operated in an institutionalised environment – often hidebound by the use of traditional resources – so it is refreshing to see these two councils encouraging enterprise and digital growth by allocating resources to their communities.

“Entrepreneurs are tomorrow's leaders in the community and they are the voice of a community's entrepreneurial spirit.”

WBOPDC technology, customer and community services group manager Erica Holtsbaum says the roll out of ultra-fast broadband across the district has enabled Council to explore how to enable our communities, businesses and individuals to participate more fully in the digital world.

“Whether building the technology capabilities of our young people through individual programmes or assisting local businesses to turn ideas into action using technology, the outcome of the DEP work will be to develop a more digitally savvy city and district.”

The programme provides IT expertise and clever thinking across all spectrums of enterprise including start-up projects for young people (MAD Ventures); workshops to digitally enable established businesses (Powering On) and starter initiatives for first-time businesses (Instigator).

Examples of Digital Enablement Programme activities:

  •   •  Start-Up weekend: An event aimed at teaming up participants and helping them (with the help of experienced people) learn how to launch a business in 54 hours.

  •   •  Mashup: Delivers a learn-by-doing experience for senior secondary school students. Working in teams, the students learn to apply entrepreneurial and technical skills to solve problems in the community. The inter-school challenge culminates to a final team pitch to a panel of judges.

  •   •  Co-starters: A nine-week programme that equips aspiring entrepreneurs with the insights, relationships and tools to turn ideas into action and turn a passion into a sustainable enterprise.

For more information on the Digital Enablement Programme visit www.venturecentre.co.nz; or www.westernbay.govt.nz



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