Geelong has a new 30 year direction and digital inclusion is the key!
In the City of Greater Geelong’s Community Development & Engagement Unit, loud, rigorous and passionate social justice conversations are oft heard. When one of our team stumbled across an email about Infoxchange’s work in digital inclusion a few years ago, a new exciting topic was borne, discussed, applauded and a new direction was sealed!
Emails, phone calls and great conversations, to and with Infoxchange, and with a quick scan at digital inclusion (or exclusion) in our most marginalised neighbourhoods, we realised the ‘digital divide’ was indeed present and expanding. We saw this an opportunity to forge a new community development direction and engage funding bodies, and basically anyone else who would listen and could influence change, to be part of this approach.
Over the past twelve months the Greater Geelong community has had its say about the ideas and elements crucial to our region’s development and prosperity. People have talked with us about what they value most about our region, how they rate it against the elements of a successful community, and how they view the challenges confronting and will confront us. At the ‘Our Future’ Assembly on Saturday 6 May 2017, more than 300 members of our community confirmed that Greater Geelong should be globally recognised as a Clever and Creative City-region.
We love where the City is heading, we respect and admire the people’s collective vision to be Clever and Creative and we also know we need to do much more to build digital equity. We will keep talking, keep meeting people for coffee and having this conversation; we will attend every digital leaders event and spruik digital inclusion and we will strive to make digital inclusion a key social equity issue and have everyone committed to it.
In a nutshell
City of Greater Geelong and Digital Inclusion
What we have done:
Initially with funding from Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), The City created the ‘Communities accessing Technology’ Project and:
- Employed an 18-month project Worker to focus on the community of Whittington (where low access is prevalent, and one of the City’s most economically diverse neighbourhoods);
- Built strong partnerships with the Geelong Library, Infoxchange, local schools, Enterprise Geelong, NDIA, Karingal and the City’s Digital Services;
- Hosted 10 community based learning Pop-Ups (at Neighbourhood Houses, Men’s Shed, shopping Centres, festival, disability specific and more);
- Paid for upgraded digital equipment at the local Library for community use;
- Hosted Teacher and Volunteer ‘Code Club’ Training. One of those participating schools has really embraced the digital technology curriculum, so much so that their primary students have won National competitions in LEGO Robotics;
- Installed Free Public WiFi at the Whittington Link, Leopold Memorial Park & Grinter Reserve. Hosted a co-working day in the link for local services and people;
- Post the 18month Project, continued to work on digital inclusion but more broadly across the City;
- During the National Year of Digital Inclusion 2016 we hosted many events, including The ‘Cyber Seniors’ film with a ‘come and try’ at the Geelong Library’s Maker Space, and The Pivot Connect Community Festival, a two day annual Pivot Summit. For The National Year of Digital Inclusion we also created an event website for 2016 digital inclusion events, a forum for community services about understanding digital inclusion, provided free digital audits for neighbourhood houses and other community based groups & promoted some community members as Digital Champions. We also won the GoDigi Community Engagement Excellence Award for the NYDI 2016;
- Submitted an idea to GovHack Geelong and the idea was picked up and later developed – mapping all the Geelong free WiFi;
- Linked an afterschool program to the Lions club’s refurbished computers so they could engage students in code club (this school only uses iPads due to lack of school and family resources);
- Purchased Lego Robotic kits for a local primary school, supported by Ardoch Youth Foundation;.
- Participated in Pivot Summit to ensure digital inclusion is on the collective agenda;
- Established a STEAM networking group for those interested in reaching out to the most excluded groups for all things Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Maths;
- Building relationships with Deakin and the Gordon and supporting emerging digital social enterprises such Alternative Aspects Media;
- Co-hosting an event with Geelong Library and TAC on September 4, to inspire Geelong about the future, humanity & inclusive technology; starring the amazing Dr Jordan Nguyenas part of the Victorian Digital Innovation Festival 2017;
- During the Geelong Seniors Festival in October this year, we are running a film festival that focuses on older people, digital technology, the future and fun;
What we have learned in the last 2 years:
- The multiple layers of digital exclusion are- availability, adoption and affordability.
- That access to the internet is a fundamental tool that links people to social, economic and civic participation.
- The road to digital equality requires a whole a community effort, understanding, planning, engagement and moreover, - policy, infrastructure and financial commitment.
- Talking about digital inclusion with everyone who will listen is the key to change
- We have much more to do!
A few of the other initiatives around town:
The Geelong Digital Strategy also identifies numerous actions to increase and improve digital access and digital inclusion across the municipality as well as co-working and Maker-Spaces, aimed at supporting and developing a vibrant and engaged 'Maker' and 'Developer' community.
- Deakin – SPARK- A startup ecosystem designed to empower the next-generation entrepreneurs.
- Deakin’s Carbon Nexus - is a purpose-built research facility designed to accommodate the diverse needs of international manufacturing organisations that require the cost-effective resolution of carbon fibre-related projects that are strategic and complex.
- The Creative Geelong Maker Space in central Geelong is the space and link for a variety of makers, creators and community .
- Runway Geelong is the city’s newest business start-up facilitator. Runway is focused on cultivating and growing emerging start-ups by creating an innovation hub in the Geelong region
- The Gordon has a new ‘Tech Hub’ being built that will allow students from 21 schools to access skills for the future.
- Newcomb Secondary College has a P-TECH model which is based around a partnership between education and STEM industry sectors to offer opportunities and support for students by providing skills for jobs of the future.
- The Upstart Challenge engages young students in innovation & entrepreneurial challenges
- The Geelong Regional Library hosts many digital technology programs and events in their maker spaces as well as through outreach and neighbourhood libraries.
- Free Public Wi-Fi Map (much more to be added)
- GEEMAP Geelong’s Entrepreneurial Eco-System Map.
- Many schools, such as North Geelong Secondary College are leading the way in digital learning through the College’s connection to Australia’s national high-speed research and education network – AARNet.
- Pivot Summit is a one day conference, for leaders and community, about the digital future, held in Geelong and with international and local speakers, a business pitch program and much more.
- There are now many co-working spaces and digital tech business hubs and networking events such as the Big Geelong Co-Working Day
- GROW is the Region’s strategic commitment to work
Remember wherever you are, you don’t have to, and almost certainly aren't, going it alone.