HUNDREDS of Dubbo residentscan’t afford internet services orcomputers at their homes and it is aserious issue for school studentswho need web-access for theirstudies.

The Smith Family helps at least112 families which don’t live withthe internet or a computer.

The organisation said it was relaunchingthe Tech Packs programwhich provides families with arefurbished computer and 12months web access.

The Macquarie Regional Librarysaid its 16 public access computerswere regularly booked out bypeople without access to the internetfrom opening to closing time.

The Smith Family’s Learning forLife program provides both financialand practical educational support forchildren of disadvantaged families,and Dubbo co-ordinator DawnRedding said she sees first hand theimpact limited computer access hason students.

She said even those who do havecomputers often struggle tocomplete online homework.

“Internet access is an extra costfor the family. Often the computer isso slow it can’t handle the internetanyway or the internet runs out veryquickly,” Ms Redding said.

Ms Redding said the children areunable to complete assignedhomework tasks, but don’t speak upin class about the problem.

“Sometimes they won’t sayanything because they’reembarrassed they can’t do it athome, or they think they’ll bedobbing in their parents for nothaving the money to pay for it.”

Nationally, The Smith Family saidaround one-third of children aged 5to 14 living in the country’s mostdisadvantaged communities didn’thave access to the internet at home,despite 85 per cent of the age groupreporting they use the internet foreducation purposes.

Ms Redding said paying fornecessities like food and electricitywere a much higher priority for thefamilies. The Learning for Lifeafternoon homework centre inDubbo provides access to theinternet through the Smith Family’sthree computers and additionaltablets, but due to a lack ofvolunteers, Ms Redding said therewere only eight local children whocould utilise the technology.

“That means there are 580 kidswho miss out.”

Director John Bayliss said freecomputer and internet servicescould be accessed at theMacquarie Regional Library.

“There are still many peoplewho do not have access to theinternet in their home or peoplewho do not have goodconnectivity if they live out oftown,” Mr Bayliss said.

“Despite the cost of computerscoming down and the access toADSL increasing, the computersare a consistently used service inall of our branches,” he said.

The director said use of thelibrary’s free, two-hour WI-FI forthose with a laptop or smartphone has also increased.

To assist disadvantagedfamilies who could not afford acomputer, Learning for Life coordinatorSonia Strachan said TheSmith Family were re-introducingthe Tech Packs program.

For $50 families in need areprovided with a refurbishedcomputer and 12 months internetaccess.

The computers will besupplied to 27 families in theregion by the end of the year,along with free tech support forthe year and basic computertraining, such as how to use wordprocessing programs and why itis important to put the computerin a place where parents canmonitor their children.

At the end of the 12 months,the family are able to keep thecomputer but are required tofund their own internet.

The program was available toDubbo residents in 2011, but wasstopped because of a lack offunding.

Ms Redding said Tech Packswould have a big impact for thestudents, allowing them tocomplete homework tasks, studyfor assessments and improvetheir overall computer skills athome.

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