Wollongong ‘Grow with nbn’ winner announced

Wollongong not-for-profit and iAccelerate Start resident company, Living Connected, has been recognised for its outstanding use of connectivity as part of the 2017 Grow with nbn grants program.

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and nbn joined forces in November last year to launch a $150,000 grants program aimed at fostering innovation across Australia.

Living Connected was among nine winning organisations awarded for maximising their use of connectivity within the realms of business, community and education. 

Taking out one of the minor grants in the Community category, the Wollongong social enterprise assists less mobile older people living at home how to use a computer to remain connected and engaged with life.

After years of research, Professor Helen Hasan discovered a significant IT skills gap among senior citizens, particularly those in aged care facilities. What transpired was the Living Connected program which has been helping to connect the older generation to the digital world for the past four years.

“We uncovered a huge need for this service in the community. More than one million Australians over 65 live at home but less than half have an internet connection or use a computer. Senior citizens also need the skills to be able to interact with online services.

“You’re never too old to learn a new skill and learning how to use the internet can be a lifeline to the rest of the world,” Professor Hasan said.

“People can contact family and friends over email and video, they can surf the internet, watch movies, play games and even travel virtually. The downside is that it can be incredibly frustrating for people who are not digitally inclined.

Professor Hasan said, with the nbn™ network available across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, the Living Connected program was essential to facilitate the use of technology among the older generation and build confidence in using the internet.

“Research shows that isolation has a greater negative affect on the health of older people than smoking. Living Connected provides a unique opportunity for older people who have difficulties going out, to engage with others, maintain independence and have fulfilling lives.

Professor Hasan said the grant will be used to provide local employment for the semi-retired and IT-literate young people to ensure the program can become available to all.

“To date we have relied on volunteers who have been great but to grow we must have paid staff. Our plan is to grow into a sustainable not-for-profit social enterprise, available to anyone who needs it regardless of their circumstances.”

Living Connected was also awarded an additional $15,000 through an nbn staff vote to help boost growth for the social enterprise.

Other grant winners include The Lab Network, a fast-growing national network of technology clubs for young people with High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome who enjoy working with IT and computers, Obelisk Systems, an aerospace and education start-up based out of regional NSW; and Fizzics Education who will use their grant to build a purpose built video conference studio for students and professional learning programs to rural and remote teachers.

AIIA CEO Rob Fitzpatrick said more than 80 applications were received from all over the country.

“This is another of those moments when you can’t help but feel proud of the phenomenal creativity, drive and purpose of our fellow Australians,” he said.

“The Grow with nbn program has unearthed a myriad of Australians leveraging nbn technology to create and grow businesses that enhance education outcomes, solve real challenges faced by many in our communities, and expand from any location, increasingly serving global markets.”

nbn Community Affairs General Manager Peter Gurney said the grants program showcased how businesses and community organisations were making use of nbn connectivity currently, and what their future needs are.  

“By engaging with businesses and community organisations, it will allow nbn to stay ahead of the game in the area of business and community need. We’ve also discovered some fantastic businesses and organisations that are leading the way in innovation around Australia,” he said.

In the next three years, nbn will help put Australia among the best countries in the world for high speed, universal broadband access, with broadband anticipated to become a powerful source of competitive advantage for Australia.

The Grow with nbn program encourages organisations to look at ways to take advantage of this to transform Australia’s businesses, charitable organisations and communities.

2017 ‘GROW WITH NBN’ PROGRAM WINNERS
Organisation Grant awarded Category
Fizzics Education Major grant recipient Education
Obelisk Systems Major grant recipient Business
The Lab Network Major grant recipient Community
Canopi Learning Solutions Minor grant recipient Business
Conexu Foundation Minor grant recipient Community
Stackable Regiments Minor grant recipient Education
Vicinity Marketing Minor grant recipient Education
Living Connected Minor grant recipient Community
SwitchDin Minor grant recipient Business

Under the 2017 Grow with nbn program, three major grants of $25,000 and six minor grants of $10,000 were offered, with one of the minor grants recipients to receive an additional $15,000 through an nbn staff vote.

The grants program is designed to help promote and support organisations that are innovatively using the nbn for their business activities.

For more information please visit: www.growwithnbn.com.au

To learn more about iAccelerate resident company Living Connected visit their iAccelerate resident listing