Ōmāio marae in the Bay of Plenty becomes the 400th marae to gain access to broadband connectivity and technology as part of the Government’s Marae Digital Connectivity Programme.
Spark New Zealand has worked with a range of partners including Crown Infrastructure Partners, Te Puni Kokiri and a handful of other broadband providers including WISPS and Satellite Internet Providers to get connectivity into marae across Aotearoa. Spark has connected hardware in all 400 marae and facilitated the technology programme of work.
Spark Māori Development Lead, Riki Hollings says the connectivity is providing whānau access to key services helping bridge the digital divide.
“The marae digital connectivity programme is giving our people access to reliable internet and technology that will connect more of our whānau at a time when it is needed more than ever.
“We have seen marae across Aotearoa using the technology in various ways, from using Zoom so people who live overseas or away from the area can stay connected to their hapū and join hui or whānau wānanga; to encouraging community and business to utilise the new technology in instances where the wider community might not have internet available.
“It is humbling to see the positive change that connectivity can have for our communities, and how technology can help bridge gaps.
“Those of us who live in towns and cities with good internet service take doing daily tasks online for granted, because it’s just part of everyday life and how we live and work. But for these communities, being able to now do simple things like online shopping, joining zoom hui or paying bills online is a big change, and gives them access to the same convenience and opportunities of participating in a digital world.”
Ōmāio Marae representative, Maxie Kemara, says the new connectivity is going to bolster the opportunities for their whānau.
“This new connectivity and technology will give us a better platform to help us shape up opportunities for our rangatahi and wider Te Whānau a Nuku hapū.
“While we are a small isolated community on the East Coast we will now actually have just as much opportunity as people who live in our neighbouring towns and cities.
“Covid-19 has highlighted the need to stay connected and do things in more efficient ways. Our long term vision is for the marae to act as a hub of innovation where we can foster business ideas, reconnect with whānau who live overseas and create more pathways so we are active in building a better outlook for Māori.
“Having this technology means a huge barrier has been taken down for our whānau who may have mahi that will now allow them to work from the marae, or those who want to be part of the kōrero happening at home but have moved away for job opportunities and can now join virtually. We are really excited about what this connectivity means for our whānau.”
The programme is a key part of the Government’s drive to improve digital accessibility in provincial and rural New Zealand to support jobs and skills development, and ensure Māori communities are socially included. In 2019 the Government announced $21 million toward the Marae Connectivity and Regional Digital Hubs Programmes, with an extra $3 million added last October to enable more marae to be connected.
Marae are fitted out with the following technology as part of the Digital Marae rollout:
- Cisco Meraki Wifi routers
- Cisco Meraki infrared HD Security CamerasA 65" SONY TV with a connected Intel Mini PC and PolyCom Video conferencing camera
- Networking cabinet with 8-port Cisco Meraki Networking Switch
- Cel-Fi mobile signal boosters allowing calls and texts to be sent from the marae if the marae is in an area of low mobile service
- Broadband connectivity – provided by a range of internet service providers including WISPS (Wireless Internet Service Providers)