TOP RIGHT: The Christchurch CBD from the air as the two-year anniversary of the February 22, 2011 quake approaches (photo courtesy @VaughnDavis).
BOTTOM RIGHT: L-R - Microsoft NZ managing director Paul Muckleston, Project Lyttelton chairwoman Margaret Jefferies, Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive Murray Edridge, Infoxchange Australia chief executive Peter Walton.
Scroll down for Christchurch CBD pics.
Microsoft and the Ministry of Social Development have teamed on an initiative to help 50 Christchurch non-profit groups get more tech savvy.
Many of the 50 non-government organisations (NGOs) were either badly hit by the quakes themselves, or are helping others to cope – or both.
Under the scheme an Australian charitable consultancy outfit called Infoxchange (slogan: "Technology for Social Justice") will visit each of the 50 non-profits for a free two-day consultancy to help them improve their technology and communications.
Microsoft is chipping in $60,000 toward the cost of the project and MSD $102,000.
So far 26 of the 50 places have been allocated, with the balance still up for grabs.
When NBR ONLINE tweeted from the announcement in Christchurch this morning, one open source advocate was quick to tweet back "The cynic in me says they'll be setting things up so the not-for-profits end up being tied into giving MS cash later".
NBR put the comment to Microsoft NZ managing director Paul Muckleston, who said his company's money went toward Infoxchange's two-day consultation. Infoxchange was independent and offered technology solutions from different companies.
Infoxchange's Melbourne-based chief executive Peter Walton – who was on hand for the launch – says his organisation will provide neutral advice, but also let NGOs know that Microsoft was offering discounted and free software under a separate initiative.
Microsoft's profitable commercial business allowed it to help out cash-strapped non-profit community groups, Mr Muckleston says.
MSD deputy chief executive Murray Edridge told the audience, "the government is not known for partnerships, can be more effective if do things together and this process [with Microsoft] is part of that".
And although the sums discussed today are modest, they could help position NGOs for bigger things. Mr Edridge told NBR ONLINE the MSD has $31.65 million earmarked for community projects over the next four years.
Any initiatives that sprung from the 50 non-profits going through the Microsoft-MSD programme announced today would be eligible for a slice of that money.
IT second highet priority after quake
Information technology needs were identified by community groups last year as a high priority in the aftermath of the earthquakes – second only to office premises, Mr Edridge said.
Mr Muckleston drew a link Microsoft's philanthropic work workwide, and that carried out by its co-founder Bill Gates.
“The earthquakes caused a significant loss of ICT infrastructure and capability for a number of companies and not-for-profits within the region, dramatically affecting their ability to deliver critical social services,” he said.
Community sustainability is a key focus of Project Lyttelton, one of the groups involved in a pilot of the initiative last year. Other participating organisations include Family Help Trust, Christchurch Budget Service, Battered Women’s Trust, Sexual Abuse as Survivors Trust, Supergrans and Te Puna Oranga.
Project Lyttelton chairwoman Margaret Jefferies says the Infoxchange team gained a “real flavour” of the organisation. Project Lyttelton’s IT requirements include a database for a Timebank which trades skills in the community.
“They understood our needs and the not-for-profit environment we work in. Ensuring greater IT experience on the project board is one of the valuable recommendations that we have already implemented,” Ms Jefferies says.
At the launch of the initiative today, other NGOs were encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity for a free assessment and plan.
Organisations can apply online at: www.infoxchange.org.nz/apply-now. Applications are considered by an Advisory Group consisting of individuals from the Ministry of Social Development, Microsoft, Infoxchange, Parry Field Charitable Foundation and the University of Canterbury.
POSTSCRIPT: I had a little while before my flight back to Auckland, so had a walk around the CBD and took a few photos (click any to zoom).
The state of things is no news to Cantabrians, of course. I watched as locals walked through their CBD, which looks like post-apolcalpse movie set, as if it were normal - which I guess it is nearly two years after the largest quake.
In many places, there's simply nothing to photograph, with buildings turmed into temporary parking looks, but the destitution of other areas is quite takes you back (though only if you're a little short on quake experience; local software developer Layton Duncan told me via twitter: take a trip east of the central city. Avonside Drive, and River Road… CBD is in good shape compared to out there.")
Two years, on the focus seems to be still heavily on demolition over reconstruction. One day the CBD will be flooded with skilled workers. At lunchtime today, it was all demo crews kicking back.
There was also a fair smattering of European and Asian tourists (or at least I took them to be tourists from their garb and cameras). Perhaps it's become the thing to take a couple of disaster pics before you head off to Queenstown.
And I'm afraid the cardboard cathedral looks pretty marginal to me. I guess the engineers know what they're doing, but as a layman I do wonder what will happen to the giant cardboard tubes in the rain. Still, whatever gets you through.
Much of the CBD remains behind barriers, but you can walk or drive through the middle of the Red Zone down Gloucester St.
Some of the shut-off areas seem only midly damaged from outward appearance.
Others look destitute.
Lastly, here's a higher resolution version of Vaughn's pic from the top of the story (click to enlarge).