Beanbag Net centres help teens cross the digital divide

Inspire Foundation is a non-profit organisation focused on using the Internet to "inspire young people", said Inspire spokesperson Jack Heath.

The centres, opened by newly-appointed NSW governor Marie Bashir, will provide free Net access via two terminals per youth centre. The plan is to open 10 Net centres all up, with the first two located at Campbelltown's TraXside Youth Health Service and the Marrickville Youth Resource Centre. Invitations are now out for Victorian youth centres interested in joining the program (see www.inspire.org.au).

The main thing is to "get young people digitally doing it for themselves," said Heath. Besides free Net access, kids at the centres will be offered Web training with the goal of being able to produce their own sites with information on local communities.

"It's not enough to dump the technology," Heath said "you need training and some local content" to help people overcome the digital divide. Inspire will focus on getting the first two centres right before rolling the project out to other youth centres around the country, he said.

Pablo Roman, an HSC-student and TraXside visitor, told launch attendees he would be first in line to use the terminals.

Roman said he feels lucky to have already accessed the Web for research for school and socialising in chat rooms, and thinks it "would be easy to feel left behind if you don't have access". He doesn't have Web access at home and the PCs at school have strict time limits.

"I can't fathom how HSC students without the Net are coping," he said.

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Deanne McIntosh

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