Making community connections at Newtown Park Flats
Interview with: Myra Latimer - Computer Centre Coordinator, Newtown Park Flats
Newtown Park Flats computer station opens up a whole new world for local residents - from research to business initiatives, homework projects and job hunting.
Run by Wellington City Council, the computer station at the Mansfield Road complex provides eight PCs and broadband internet access for hundreds of residents. An onsite coordinator is also on hand to assist users.
ICT e-learning coordinator Myra Latimer says many locals do not have computers or home phone connections so it is "a valuable resource both educationally and socially".
Online at Newtown Park Flats
The benefits that the centre brings include better social participation, increasing learning and research tools, and providing economic opportunities such as online job searches and designing CVs.
Rose Walker, a regular visitor to the computer station, uses the internet "for everything" from checking bus timetables to researching Māori plants for medicinal use, and finding clip-art to use in a newsletter.
Using the internet "has opened up a whole new world" for resident Bob Quinlan. Since having a hip replacement, he has researched medical sites to find out why his leg is stiffening up. He used to have to buy phonecards to keep in touch with his family but now emails most of the time.
Chef Devender Sagar values high-speed access so he can drop by to read Indian news sites and source new recipes.
Myra says that it has even enabled one couple to set up their own business selling items on Trade Me. "They have a computer but don't have broadband. We download photos from the camera for them - without broadband it would take forever."
Many young residents use the computers and the internet as an essential homework tool which often involves downloading large amounts of graphics and information.
Stretched to Limit
The facilities are used so extensively that the current system is often stretched.
The station's wireless connection provides access of about 4Mbps for uploads and 2Mbps for downloads. As this is shared between all users, it runs fairly slowly when large amounts of data are being downloaded.
Myra says high-speed access is "as vital as the roading system. It is what people expect today. We offer real opportunities here to get residents online, but it would be wonderful to offer even better support.
"The facilities here are good but to be hard-wired would be a huge advantage as the system currently gets very slow when it rains or if people are listening to music or downloading a lot of data. Ideally we would like a higher amount of bandwidth and higher speed."