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Free library internet closing the digital divide

Monday 7 Feb 2011 10:02 p.m.

By Jesse Peach

The National Library led initiative to provide free internet access in all libraries across the country has found overwhelming support from the people it was designed to help.

According to an independent review, nearly half who use the Wi-Fi service have no access to it otherwise, and the initiative is closing the so called "digital divide".

Ruth Akanoa lives in Papakura, south of Auckland, and works as a cleaner at the local school.

She doesn't have the internet at home but at her local library she can use it for free.

“It helps me a heck of a lot,” she says. “I can come into the library and catch up with my email and my family and friends.”

A new survey's found people like Ms Akanoa – who have no internet access – make up 42 percent of users.

The survey also found 40 percent of users said they would looked for work using the library Wi-Fi,

The same number had used it to develop computer skills.

The provider – Aotearoa People's Network Kaharoha – says the results are encouraging as their aim is to provide equal access to the internet.

“Regardless of where they live or their social or economic situation,” says Sue Sutherland, a National Librarian.

Ms Akanoa agrees with the findings; that free internet at the library is an essential service that brings New Zealanders closer together.

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