Monthly Archives: July 2007

Bring out yer dead

I’ll definitely bring out my dead for the eDay coming up on 29 September. Dumped in forgotten corners around the house we’ve got three ancient laptops with barely a flicker of life between the three of them.

A lot of people got into the spirit of things at last years eDay in September 2006 when 50 tonnes of dead computer equipment was collected.

Again this year people in the Wellington region (and possibly some other areas) are being encouraged to safely dispose of old computer equipment. The Computer Access NZ Trust (CANZ) is organising the free community computer recycling day for households, small businesses and schools, with help from the Wellington Region 2020 Communications Trust, Remarkit, WCC and a number of industry sponsors.

All computers will be broken down and the parts will be recycled for other purposes. Mobile phones will also be disposed of in an environmentally sustainable way.

The details: drop-off at the Westpac Stadium car park from 9am-3pm 29 September 2007. If you want to help out on the day, talk to Mike Ennis at Parts Plus.

Laptops in hospices launched

Having sat through many updates about theWhanau Link project at Wellington Region 2020 Communications Trust meetings, I was delighted to join with fellow Trustees and Wellington 2020 staff at the launch of the expanded Whanau Link project on 25 July.

Now a total of six hospices in the lower North Island have laptops available for patients and families. Each hospice has a wireless network so patients in care can use the laptops from their bedside to keep in touch with families, friends, and even their workplaces.

Already, the benefits of the technology are being picked up by staff who have begun holding regular online meetings with associate hospices.

The system is using standard off the shelf technology which means the ongoing support requirements should be minimal.

Wellington 2020 ran the project with input from a range of parnters, including NEC and CityLink. Funding for the project was via a grant from the Digital Stratey Community Parntership Fund.

Speaking at the launch Winnie Laban, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, acknowledged the collaborative approach. She said “the success of this project has only been possible through the contributions, volunteer time, and collaboration of all partners involved”. (See her full speech.)

BTW: This story is slow arriving online. Ironically, writing up the launch was delayed because I’ve waiting for the Hutt News to arrive at the central library to check a couple of details.

One year on The Couch evaluation

According to website 101 advice, regular evaluation of your website is imperative, so is making incremental changes. As June Cohen says in The Unusually Useful Web Book “you launch the site, study how it’s used, and make continual changes to improve it”. Yet as evaluation takes time and effort it’s not always completed in a timely way, or even done at all.

I’m really pleased to say we’ve completed a full process evaluation for The Couch just over a year after the website was launched. Mostly we wanted to find out whether the website was working and how it could be improved, but we also wanted a sense whether members were satisfied with their involvement.

As you can see from the report on the evaluation poll, lots of members made positive comments and suggestions for improvements. The second most common theme was members asking what difference does their input have? Members made it clear they want to know how policies for families are changing.

Based on this feedback we’re planning some changes to the way we communicate about how the results of polls are used. It’s not always easy to show a causal connection between the results and policy change, but we can tell members what we’ve done. This complements earlier decisions to be specific about the objectives for each poll before they go live.

Already underway are some subtle changes to the website to make it easier to use. And we’re planning to review the homepage and begin sending out a quarterly e-newsletter.

Of course, this wasn’t the start nor will the evaluation be the end of the changes. We’ll keep fine-tuning the website with design tweaks and wording changes as the need arises. Stray emails and comments from members and web denizens are vital to this. I’d be happy to receive any suggestions for The Couch you may have, send them to enquiries@thecouch.org.nz.

Tech exec share youthful insights

Technology is going to take over.
Technology is going to be everywhere – embrace it!
Internet is vital nowdays, just like water, food and shelter.

These are just a few of the comments about the technology in the future from some members of the Wellington-based Tech Exec. The Tech Exec are a group of senior high school students involved in all sorts of ICT projects. Last week some of the group they braved a sea of suits at one of State Service Commission’s regular online participation community of practice lunchtime seminars to co-present.

The session was facilitated by WCC’s Raewyn Baldwin who is working with the Tech Exec on various council projects. One recent event the Tech Exec organised was a half-day Tech Hui for 200 students across the Wellington region to learn about the IT industry.

Comments about online participation was refreshingly direct: make your websites interesting – visual and dynamic; and find ways to allow more than the dedicated few to comment. For at least one student, the role of goverment was limited to meeting immediate needs, including getting a drivers licences, taking out a student loan and eventually voting. Therefore the need to be consulted or interact with government was seen as being very limited.

There is lots expertise among the speakers. The students at Wellington Girls College have been running the Tech Angels programme for several years. Computer savvy students work with run lunchtime mentoring in the use of IT for other students. The Tech Angel vision stretches way this beyond “…to challenging the way that everyone learns – both teachers and students.” Daniel, a student at Wellington High School, is working on collaborative arts production project in Mount Cook. He’s already developed, coded and is supporting a content management system, called KustomPage.

You can read, view or listen to student presentations about these and other projects from the Time 4 Online web-based conference for teachers, held 28 May to 8 June 2007.

The Tech Exec are not necessarily representative of all young people around the country. Those students lucky enough to live in major urban centres and with well-paid parents might get fast broadband but not everyone can. Michelle from the Ministry of Youth Development said that one third of 500 Provoke youth network members did not have Internet access of any kind. Another Youth Development advisor said many of the young people in smaller centres like Greymouth or Kaiapoi were unlikely to have good access. Considering the infrastructure alone, broadband is simply not readily available.

I suspect and hope that by the time the presenters are my age, the distortions of access will have been ironed out. However, much as I’m an Internet junkie, I don’t really like the idea of technology taking over the way the Tech Exec reps foresee. Perhaps this is something we could talk about.