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Above: A Broadband for Seniors kiosk at Statenborough Retirement Village (image: NEC Australia).

By Stephen Easton

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, today announced the completion of the Broadband for Seniors program, launched in 2009, which provides computers and training to help older people all over Australia get online and enjoy the benefits of high-speed internet access.

The last of the internet kiosks has now been set up at Yarraville Senior Citizens Centre in Melbourne, and is one of 2000 around Australia, from major population centres to remote regional communities like Thursday Island off the Cape York Peninsula, Wyndham in the far north of Western Australia and Yirrkala in East Arnhem Land, on the north-eastern tip of the Northern Territory.

The program has been delivered by a consortium, led by computer manufacturer NEC Australia, with Adult Learning Australia, the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association and the University of the Third Age Online helping provide the seniors computer training component.  The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs provided $15 million to fund the initiative.

NEC Group Manager, David Cooke, said the other consortium members had brought expertise in the relaxed, one-on-one learning style that was generally favoured by seniors.

“When we looked at the requirements, we felt that we had a good fit with the technological, network and systems-integration components, but we recognised that we had a gap, if you like, which was the seniors training requirement,” he said. “And hence rather than NEC offer it in its own right, it teamed with the 3 consortium members to provide a holistic solution.” 

When the Department went looking for a company to furnish the various seniors and community organisations around the country with computers, modems and other equipment, a simpler design for desktop computers was gaining ground in the market.

“The all-in-one computer, which at the time was emerging as a style of desktop computer, has all the components in the screen housing, which meant it was a very simple thing to deploy,” Mr Cooke explained. “It (the NEC P6000) has a very high-clarity, high-contrast screen which was good for seniors and simple to use, with no complicated boxes and other devices to be connected.”

The kiosks are built from a self-install kit, containing two all-in-one computers with a keyboard and mouse each, a wireless modem, two computer tables and three chairs (one for the tutor to sit on). A broadband connection is also provided or if one is already present, a rebate of $30 per month is available.

The host organisations were required to make the computers available to seniors for at least 20 hours per week with supervision and assistance available at all times, and had to have toilet facilities and disabled access where possible.

The Department produced a list of priority locations for the kiosks, which the consortium used in selecting the locations to receive them, a process Mr Cooke described as “a trade-off between willingness to apply and priority of area.”

The list was based on socioeconomic data and the number of residents over 65 in postcode areas, and resulted in the installation of the computer packages in some of Australia’s most far-flung communities.  An interactive map showing all the locations can be viewed here.



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