Eteroa Lafaele was the winner of the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Science (STEM) Award, but says she can’t be a technology advocate for Pasifika if her own people don’t have devices.
So she started her own charitable initiative to bridge the digital divide and distribute laptops.
“We have 700 students to try and cover, the goal is 700 but the end goal is to try and cover that digital divide,” says Eteroa.
“The need is big, if that’s what its like in South Auckland imagine what its like in the motu.
“We have stories where families that have six in their family and they only have one device, and usually that one device is their mum or dad’s device and they have to do school after school-hours because their parents have to do their nine to five and then from five to probably 10 at night they have to do school.
“Sometimes we find out that these kids are actually essential workers so they can’t do school but they don’t have a device when they come back from work so they have to do the mahi at home with pretty much hard packs but it’s not enough for them to get through especially those in NCEA.
“Some of the families we give our devices to are those that are in emergency homes and if a family had to choose either $400 or $500 for rent or for a laptop they would choose rent,” she told 1News.
Stories like this is the reason why Eteroa started her initiative called Digitautua, tautua meaning ‘service’ in Samoan.
“We have a givealittle page that we’re fundraising to give to these 700 kids, but also we’re attuned into the tech industry we have many tech companies that are donating laptops, so we’re getting these laptops from these corporates, refurbishing them and giving them to our community to use,” says Eteroa.
Digitautua is currently just a two person team and so far over the last week they’ve distributed over 45 laptops to kids in need.
Eteroa says the main reason for this digital divide comes down to poverty.
"Some of our families don’t even have power, or let alone internet, so we have stories where we have to go and recharge laptops for three hours and come back."
And while schools are providing laptops, Eteroa says there’s a backlog.
“We have schools in South Auckland that ordered 300 laptops in February, but they only received 50 and this is the second lockdown and they haven’t received anything,” she says.
She would love to take her initiative down to her home town in Porirua and across the country, and says the “divide isn’t just here in Auckland but everywhere in Aotearoa".