Bridging tech gap at our libraries

Laing’s framework to help increase digital techskills





Ka¯piti Coast District Libraries is working to help raise the level of digital capability locally, with digital inclusion adviser Simon Laing developing a framework for how our libraries can play a part in improving access to digital technology and the skills to use it. Dr Laing has a 20-year career in technology and design and says things like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, and mobile computing devices are becoming increasingly common in everyday life. While not everyone will start using virtual reality at home or buy a smart fridge that can tell when you’re low on milk, awareness of emerging technologies is valuable. “We want the people of Ka¯piti to be informed and involved in the debate about tech — around things like robotics and artificial intelligence — and for that to happen people need base level knowledge about what these things mean for the community and beyond. “We also have better want digital people skills. to “The recent vaccine pass rollout exposed some significant issues with digital literacy in the community when we were inundated with requests for help from all sorts of people struggling with devices. “Lifting our collective skills will require ongoing education and the provision of opportunities to try things out and experiment.” A digital needs assessment has shown where more work is required, with upskilling those who work in the libraries, providing “maker spaces” dedicated to digital creation, offering workshops and building relationships with other tech-focused organisations among the aims. This work has started with several recent initiatives held to deliver digital experiences and assistance. In the last year Ka¯piti Libraries have run or supported robotics workshops for children and teens, public drop-in technology help sessions in partnership with the Waikanae CAB, the establishment of a code club for kids and teens, and met with organisations like SeniorNet Ka¯piti, the Raumati Technology Centre and Ma¯oriland Hub, among other things. Libraries and cultural services manager Ian Littleworth said there are already other organisations and businesses involved in digital technologies in Ka¯piti and he is excited by the opportunity to work more collaboratively in building digital inclusion in our communities. “This is really important work and a big challenge, because as a community what we make of the digital tools can open up a lot of opportunities. “Also, not all technology is good for people, so it’s important we have an informed citizenry able to participate in the global discussions around tech.” Council is participating in the New Zealand Libraries Partnership Programme being run by the National Library to increase the impact that libraries have. Keep an eye out for more information and opportunities to learn about and experience technology in the coming months.