Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa
Te Rau Herenga O Aotearoa

APNK and the impact on NZ Libraries

In May 2005 the government announced that it would provide more than 53 million dollars to implement a New Zealand Digital Strategic Framework. This announcement was welcomed by the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa, (LIANZA) as they had been a strong advocate of the need for New Zealand to adopt a National Digital Strategy, to ensure we had a knowledgeable society.  It also signalled the importance of connectivity, confidence and content as the key enablers to guarantee New Zealanders benefited from the digital revolution happening around the globe. 

One of the key projects noted in the strategy was the development of a people’s network for New Zealand.  The National Library of New Zealand and the public libraries identified this as a key initiative to provide digital opportunities to New Zealanders by providing fast, free internet, content, education and skilled library staff support.

The National Library of New Zealand working with New Zealand Public Libraries, applied to the Community Partnership Fund, a contestable fund of the Digital Strategy for funding for stage one of a people’s network. The application was successful and stage one could begin.

The Aotearoa People’s Network (APN) was formed as a collaborative venture between the National Library of New Zealand, the public libraries of New Zealand and other stakeholders.  These other stakeholders were Local Government of New Zealand, LIANZA, other sponsors included Telecom and Māori.  Aotearoa People’s Network also had a governance group that was to provide a strategic decision mechanism for partners and stakeholders. This governance group consisted of representatives; 2 members  from the  National Library and the project sponsor, 4 public library managers, 1 member from LIANZA,  1 member appointed by Te Ropu Whakahau, 1 member  from Local Government New Zealand and 1 member representing Māori. The purpose of the governance group was to provide a strategic decision making procedure for partners and stakeholders.

The aim of a people’s network was to provide free fast internet service in public libraries, so that all New Zealanders could benefit from accessing and experiencing digital content. The people’s network would also supply the hardware and software to be able to have this experience. In 2007 phase 1 of Aotearoa People’s Network was commenced. It involved 34 libraries in 13 local authorities. Kawerau was the first library to install the service on the 22nd November 2007.

In 2009 Aotearoa People’s Network changed its name to Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa (APNK). The name change was made as the People’s Network was introduced into marae.  Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa is now in 147 libraries and 2 marae.  In 2010 Wi-Fi, scanners and kete (digital repositories) were added as options to the participating libraries.

What has been done elsewhere?

There was a similar programme launched in the United Kingdom, where over 4000 public libraries offered free internet access to its borrowers. While the original idea was from the United Kingdom, we needed to develop Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa uniquely to New Zealand to meet the needs of our people and communities. We needed to provide fast access, equipment and skilled staff to help New Zealanders participate and become knowledgeable in the digital world. This was going to be a challenge with the large spread of geographical locations to small communities of New Zealand public libraries.

Impact of Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa.

Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa is now in its 9th year of operating.  The impact that it has had on some of the smaller communities has been fantastic as it has given people in these communities greater internet access. Central Hawke’s Bay is one of these smaller communities. In the 2013 census Central Hawke’s Bay had a population of 12717 with 81% belonging to European ethnic group and 22.2% belong to Māori ethnic group. 69.5% of households in Central Hawke’s Bay have access to the internet compared with 76.8% of household’s nationality. Some internet connections in the more   remote rural areas of Central Hawke’s Bay and people on lower incomes still access the internet by dial up, so it is very slow.   

With having Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa in the local public libraries this has given the people of Central Hawke’s Bay greater access to the internet.  People are using the computers to look for jobs, write their CVs, access government web sites, especially Inland Revenue Department and go on sites like Trade- me and Facebook.   Another very important aspect of Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa is keeping staff members up skilled so they have the ability to help these people when they require it.

Where to from here?

Up until now most of the focus has been on connectivity and giving people fast reliable internet access whether it is through using the computers in the library or using their own devices by accessing the free Wi-Fi at the library. By giving the people in our communities these resources, it has increased their confidence in using digital technology to find information they require and enhance their knowledge. If Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa continues work as it is it now, just concentrating on the connectivity it would soon become obsolete.

With the digital world moving at a rapid pace, new opportunities will emerge for the National Library of New Zealand to refocus and better prepare itself for these opportunities. In the strategic review of Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa at the National Library 2012 complied by Starfish Consulting Ltd and prepared by Sue Elliott, “it tables a vision of Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa being transformed into a National Library at your library”. This would be a combined ‘service to help public libraries provide an agreed group of library services electronically.’  By sharing these resources it will become cost efficient as there will only be one set of development and maintenance costs.   With the present funding environment in Public Libraries and an emphasis on user pays, this is still a vision of the future.

Looking further into the future, this paves the way for a virtual public library service, to sit alongside Public Libraries or replace them in the smaller regions.

With central government moving more to online services, it is looking at public libraries becoming community hubs. This will mean that the people who haven’t got access to the internet or computers will be using the library more to access these government sites. Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa can become part of this service by providing on line training to help users find and manage information and make sure the content is quick and easy to access.

The vision statement for Aotearoa Peoples Network Kaharoa  is:

                Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa – living, learning, creating in a digital world.

The National Library’s vision and outcome is:

                New Zealanders connected with information important to all aspects of their lives.

The vision statement for New Zealand public libraries is

                Public libraries engage, inspire and inform citizens and help build strong communities.

There will always be those who do not have a personal computer or a smart phone. As more forms and enquiries by Central Government including WINZ, immigration as well as and business are now needing to be filled out online there will always be a need for access to computers in the foreseeable future. Aoteroa People’s Network Kaharoa can provide this access.

Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa has unlocked the world of digital information.  It has connected individuals, libraries and communities, giving New Zealander’s the power to create, learn, engage and become information literate in the digital world. 


Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa Who we are and what we do

Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa: An impact evaluation 2008

Strategic Review of Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa at the National Library

Statistic New Zealand

The Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa website has further information and case studies.

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