Digital Community Project tackles digital divide on the groundPresident McAleese presents awards at  Project's first-ever graduation ceremony

Dublin, 25 April 2005: President Mary McAleese today presented certificates to forty-seven graduates who qualified in a range of information technology courses run by the Digital Community Project in Dublin's inner-city. The ceremony, which took place in DIT Aungier Street, saw the first graduates of this innovative programme receive DIT, Microsoft and FETAC awards, which will enable them to go on to the next level or into commercially viable employment. The project actively tackles what has been described as the digital divide and six of those who graduated are already employed as teachers in their own communities, using their technology skills.

President Mary McAleese and President Brian Norton of DIT

The Digital Community Project - an initiative of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and Hewlett Packard - was established three years ago and is based in areas across Dublin's inner-city where access to computers is severely limited. The Digital Community Project was set-up following the success of DIT's Dublin Inner-city Schools Computerisation project, which aims to reduce educational obstacles and potential limitations faced by inner-city school children due to lack of computer facilities.

President Mary McAleese and Dr Thomas Cooke, head of DIT's Community Links programme

According to Peter Byrne, Digital Community Project Manager, "The project is about bringing educational opportunities to people, rather than expecting them to come to us, and the approach works! We didn't tell them what they needed to know - we asked them what they wanted to know, and it went from there."

To date twelve high density inner-city flat complexes have benefited from the project. The Digital Community Centres consist of one to two dedicated flats within each complex, which are fitted out with computers, printers, scanners, access to high speed DSL lines and free internet connection. The objective of the centres is to provide training for the residents on site and in their own communities. The computer centre is managed by members of the community who have been trained in the necessary IT and management skills. There is also a full-time manager on-hand to co-ordinate the centre and help train local residents.

Last year 1000 participants, both young and old, took part in the 100 different programmes offered by the Digital Community Project - ranging from email, to basic IT to digital camera and videography. Out of this group 47 people are now receiving accredited qualifications from DIT, Microsoft and the CDVEC. These graduates will then pass on their skills to their peers by running courses in their own communities and thus improve the employment potential of members of their own community. Most of the courses take place in the centres, making it easier for residents to arrange child-minding etc. However, two courses are located in DIT so participants also experience attending a third level college and can access its facilities such as the library.


According to graduate Michael Byrne, "The Digital Community Project has helped me to develop my skills and has kick started my teaching career. Participating in the project is a great confidence booster and motivating influence."

The project has attracted considerable interest both at home and abroad and the model has been copied in Belfast where four similar centres have been established recently. Dr Thomas Cooke, Head of DIT's Community Links Programme, attributes much of its success to the real commitment of the patrons and sponsors who have been brought together to form a unique partnership of the business, educational, government and community sectors. The partnership includes Dublin Institute of Technology, Hewlett Packard, Dublin City Council, National Centre for Technology in Education, Dublin Inner-city Partnership, Eircom, Diageo Liberties Learning Initiative, Microsoft, City of Dublin VEC and Prodigy.

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