The Digital Community Project turning Dublin's Digital Divide into Digital Opportunities

State of the art computer resource centres in 12 inner city flat complexes; over 1200 resident users per annum, 200 children per day, 120 different courses; and 58 graduates

DUBLIN, November 23, 2005 - The Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Noel Ahern TD today officially launched the new IC3 certification from DIT and Microsoft as part of the Digital Community Project in the St. John Bosco Centre, Drimnagh, Dublin 12. The launch took place alongside a showcase of the project's achievements.

Going Digital - Local teens at the Digital Community Showcase held in St. John Bosco Centre, Drimnagh, Dublin 12

The Digital Community Project - an initiative of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and Hewlett Packard - was established three years ago and is a novel education Programme designed to help Dublin?s Inner-City Communities fulfill their aspirations for participation in the digital age. Based in areas across Dublin?s inner-city where access to computers is severely limited, the Project?s objective is to develop local residents? digital literacy and computer skills by putting in place state of the art computer resource centres within the communities.

The Digital Community Centres consist of one to two dedicated flats within each complex, fitted out with a full computer room. Each room has computers, printers, scanners, access to high speed DSL lines and free internet connection. There is also a full time manager funded by Hewlett Packard, employed to work with these communities to upskill and train the residents.

High density flat complexes, across Dublin?s Inner City such as Bridgefoot Street, St. Teresa?s Gardens, Fatima Mansions, Iveagh Trust, Charlemont Street, Whitefriar Street, O?Devaney Gardens and Michael Malin House have all benefited from the project.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Thomas Cooke, Head of DIT?s Community Links Programme said, ?These communities are benefiting from advances in information technology which serve as a vehicle for skill development, job creation, information access, improved communications and collaboration. The Digital Community Project is influencing greatly the way residents of these communities live, learn and earn. It levels the playing field and actively tackles what has been described as the digital divide.

Alison O'Keefe, from Darndale, Dublin 17 is a mother of five, and left school at the young age of fourteen.  She recently completed her IC3 training through the Digital Community Project and is now back with the project as a teacher.  Speaking at the event, Alison highlighted her new found confidence that she has gained from participating in the programme. She also spoke of the incentive she has passed onto her daughters to further their education.

In his address Professor Brian Norton, DIT President, highlighted a number of other success stories that bear testimony to the project?s success.

  • To date twelve inner-city flat complexes have benefited from the project.           
  • Last year over 1200 participants, young and old, took part in the 120 different programmes offered by the Digital Community Project - ranging from email, to basic IT to digital camera and videography.
  • 58 people successfully graduated with accredited qualifications from DIT, Microsoft and the CDVEC. 
  • 14 of those who graduated are now employed back in the Digital Community project as teachers in their own communities and are thus passing on their skills to their peers.
  • In fact, the Project has been viewed as so successful that in 2003, the Information Society Commission launched a report into the ?Digital Divide? in Ireland. The Commission recommended that the Digital Community Project model be regarded as being of a very high standard and capable of addressing to a very large extent the problem of the Digital Divide in this country.

Professor Brian Norton attributed much of the project?s success to the real commitment of all of those involved.  He said ?Everyone involved with the Digital Community should feel a sense of accomplishment.  Through this partnership, we have in a way transformed what were ?digital divides? into ?digital opportunities?.?

With representatives from the business, educational, government and community sectors, the partnership includes DIT, Hewlett Packard, the Dublin Inner City Partnership, the Digital Hub, National Centre for Technology in Education, Eircom, and Dublin City Council. It is sponsored by Microsoft, CD VEC, Prodigy and Intuition.

With the inclusion of the Microsoft IT Academy, the Project is further positioned to provide Certification Courses in a wide range of commercially viable areas. All of the 12 digital community centres will now be appointed as IC3 test and training centres. 

Minister Ahern in launching this initiative said "I particularly welcome this IC3 accreditation development, which has clear advantages for the many communities and schools benefiting under the Digital Community in particular for participating residents in terms of convenience, but also in terms of jobs and the future sustainability of the community computer centres".

Kevin Marshall, Academic Programme Manager, Microsoft, said:  ?We have been involved in the Digital Community since its inception through the Microsoft IT Academy. Critically, the IT Academy programme delivers certification as a way of building one?s career path and because the programme has been designed for education by education, it ensures that it addresses IT training needs for the workforce.?

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