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Bridging the Digital Divide, One Laptop at a Time

Nathaniel, Flo, Ova and Hadassah from Hay Park School, showing off their new Chromebooks, thanks to the ANZ NZ Staff Foundation.

As digital technology becomes increasingly essential in our lives, a small Auckland charity is making sure low decile schoolkids don’t miss out.


The Ako Hiko Education Trust has been helping schools and families access technology in the Mount Roskill-Owairaka area for a decade.


So far it has made more than 3000 Chromebooks available to families at highly discounted prices, with weekly payments of just $3, or in some cases free of charge.


“We saw that kids who didn’t have access to their own devices, and couldn’t use one at home, were at a disadvantage,” said Kaaren Holland-Kara, the trust’s accountant and ex-trustee.


“We were just trying to level the playing field - between those that have and those that don't."


“Every child needs access to technology now, and there’s a lot we can do to help.”

"“We were just trying to level the playing field - between those that have and those that don't."

Kaaren Holland-Kara, Ako Hiko Educational Trust.



In conjunction with Manaiakalani Education Trust in Tamaki, Ako Hiko also carries out research into the programme’s impact on student’s learning, and how access to a computer can increase achievement and engagement.


In doing so, a recent 2023 survey found that 84 per cent of students said having a Chromebook helped with their learning, while 74 per cent said it helped them connect and collaborate with other students.


Kaaren said accelerated progress in writing skills was one of the overwhelmingly positive effects on students, with those at schools running Ako Hiko’s programmes developing significantly faster than the national norm.


2022 data showed that, while Pasifika students overall remain behind national norms, those involved in the trust’s programme achieved more than one full year extra progress.


“It's just the way of the world now,” Kaaren said. “If you don't have digital skills you're going to miss out on jobs and careers and many of the things we all take for granted.”


The trust’s 2023 survey also revealed that 63 per cent of students said having a Chromebook helped them share their schoolwork with family.


“There might be multiple siblings living in a household, so sending a Chromebook home with one of them not only means they can carry on learning outside the classroom, but it also benefits the wider whanau,” Kaaren said.


When the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns hit, the trust discovered that its schools were well placed to support students.


“Because the program is so well embedded, the schools and their students were at a real advantage when it came to learning from home,” Kaaren said.


“We found students and teachers were able to make the switch to online learning relatively easily.”


The Ako Hiko Education Trust relies largely on donations, including the support of the ANZ New Zealand Staff Foundation, which gave it a $25,000 grant late last year.


“The support from the ANZ New Zealand Staff Foundation has been amazing,” Kaaren said.


“It means we can offer a computer to many students completely free of charge, so for them, it is a massive thing.”



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