DIT's Digital Community Project tackles 'digital divide' in Dublin inner-city

The Digital Community Project's Annual Graduation Ceremony took place last Thursday in DIT Aungier Street. The President of Dublin Institute of Technology, Professor Brian Norton presented certificates to 121 graduates who qualified in a range of Information Technology courses run by the Digital Community Project (DCP) which tackles the 'digital divide' in Dublin's inner-city. The The graduates received DIT and Microsoft awards, which will enable them to go on to further study or into commercially viable employment. Some of those graduating will be employed immediately by the DCP as IT trainers in their own communities.

The Ballymun Music Programme at the Digital Community Project Annual Graduation

At the ceremony President Norton announced that the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs have committed to providing €900,000 in funding over the next three years to DIT Community Links Programme through which the DCP project is managed.

According to Professor Norton, 'Since its establishment in 2003 the Digital Community Project has played a vital role in improving access to Information technology in inner-city communities. The recent commitment by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to provide €900, 000 in funding to the DCP and the Ballymun Music Programme - another initiative of DIT's Community Links project- over the next three years is a fitting endorsement of what the DCP has achieved.'

President Norton also thanked the DCP's other sponsors including Dublin City Council, Dublin Inner City Partnership and private sector partners Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Eircom who have provided generous financial support to the project.

The Digital Community Project - an initiative of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and Hewlett Packard - was established five 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 (D.I.S.C.), which aims to reduce educational obstacles and potential limitations faced by inner-city school children due to lack of computer facilities. Following on from the D.I.S.C. project, the need to give access to technology at home, for students and parents, was identified. To this end, the Digital Community project was established.

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 20 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.

Speaking at the Graduation Ceremony, Dr Thomas Cooke, Head of DIT's Community Links Programme 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' in to, I suppose one could say , digital opportunities.'

For more information on the Digital Community Project click here

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