Digital Office plea over funding decision

Dunedin's Digital Office faces a ''very dark day'' unless the Dunedin City Council reverses a decision to axe funding from its upcoming budget, councillors have been told.

The warning came from Digital Office general manager Stuart Dillon-Roberts at yesterday's economic development committee meeting.

His comments followed an earlier decision by the council to remove a $60,000 grant from its draft budget for 2014-15, which was still subject to public consultation.

Mr Dillon-Roberts told yesterday's meeting the discovery the funding had been removed from the draft budget had come as a blow for the office, which could not survive without council support.

''From Dunedin's point of view, it would be a very dark day if we don't get the funding,'' he said.

Instead, the office would be seeking a funding increase - to $100,000 a year for three years - when the council heard public submissions on its draft budget next month, he said.

The money would help pay for a new permanent, full-time staff member to expand the office and its activities over the next three years, which could be a ''game-changer'', he said.

Mr Dillon-Roberts is based in Christchurch for personal reasons, and contracted to work one day a week for the office, which also relied on significant amounts of volunteer help, he said.

The council's contribution would also allow the office to continue seeking project-specific funding from other agencies, which last year totalled $355,000, he said.

The funding had allowed the office to push a variety of initiatives designed to help people get to grips with technology and promote economic growth, he said.

The initiatives included the spread of Wi-Fi hot spots to better cater for tourists wanting to share their experiences immediately, and pushing Chorus to prioritise the installation of fibre broadband in Dunedin in a way that best suited the city's needs, he said.

It also included the development of a new ''digital journey'' tool, which offered step-by-step guidance to businesses wanting to make the most of cloud computing and other areas of innovation, he said.

The office also ran tablets in schools, digital ambassador and digital training programmes, among other initiatives, as well as co-ordinating the city's Gigatown Dunedin campaign, he said.

More projects were on the horizon, including a ''Geek Camp'' for teenagers, aimed at encouraging more interest in digital careers, he said.

''I think the next year coming up will be a big growth year for the Digital Office.''

Councillors voted to note the report, although deputy mayor Chris Staynes - also the chairman of the Digital Community Trust, which governs the office - sat back from the item.

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