Too many Whanganui households are on the wrong side of the digital divide, Alistair Fraser says.

They are households without a connection to the internet. He estimates 18 per cent of Whanganui households - about 800 - are without access to the internet except through the expensive data on a mobile phone.

"We have still got a long way to go," he said.

He's the Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa ambassador for the Whanganui region, and also the former co-ordinator of the Computers in Homes programme here. He would like access for all and says the Spark Foundation's subsidised broadband initiative and Whanganui District Council's proposed digital strategy could help.


Computers in Homes provided 1500 Whanganui households with devices and internet access in the 10 years to 2016. The Government stopped funding it - except for refugees.

In 2018 the Spark Foundation responded with the Jump subsidised broadband initiative. It offers a free modem and subsidised broadband for households with children under 18 and no internet connection.

The cost works out to less than a quarter of what people would otherwise be paying, Fraser says. The connection is through the 4G network so there is no fibre or phone connection and no installation cost.

Eligible people can apply at Whanganui's District, Gonville and Hakeke St libraries, and at Ngā Tai o Te Awa. After a 20-40 minute one-on-one session, and creating an account with the Skinny brand, the applicant can leave with a modem and 30GB of free broadband.

Computers in Homes graduation day at Tawhero School. Photo / file
Computers in Homes graduation day at Tawhero School. Photo / file

When that runs out they get more by prepaying $10 for another 30GB - an amount that would last a month of modest use.

The applicant can take the modem home, plug it in to power and use it with their own device. They keep it for as long as they are using the Jump pre-pay account.

Whanganui has provided modems to about 150 households so far, and Fraser said it is often the busiest donor in New Zealand.

"Each month the Whanganui District gives out more of them than just about everyone else."

Whanganui District Library performance manager Sonny Tamihana handed out three on May 13, and said the district library was keeping pace with demand.

Fronting the initiative was a library role, he said, because libraries were about reading and a lot of people do a lot of their reading online.

All modems he has given away have been for education - but he says there are other needs. The young adults who use the library's computers also don't have internet access - and they need it to buy tickets to concerts and book appointments at WINZ.

Older adults are also missing out, Fraser said. For them the internet can be important for banking, or for health information.

Whanganui District Council's proposed digital strategy is out for consultation until June 21. Fraser will be asking for more hotspots in town with WiFi internet, and more tech expos to educate people.

He said the council had shown a fantastic commitment to digital inclusion so far, and he was encouraged to see that inclusion was the first of the strategy's four aims.