Ireland’s digital literacy ‘needs fixing’, Lord David Puttnam says
Lord David Puttnam with Sophie Butler (left) and Holly Buchanan, students from Mercy Secondary School, Inchicore, Dublin. Image by Marie Crevoiserat

Ireland’s digital literacy ‘needs fixing’, Lord David Puttnam says

18 Apr 2013

Lord David Puttnam paid a visit to a Camara Education workshop in Chapelizod, Dublin, where he commended the work of the social enterprise in promoting digital literacy both in Ireland and abroad, and challenged Irish people to wise up to a broken system and strive to be better than average.

Ireland’s digital champion – a title given to Puttnam by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, last year – was visiting the workshop last Friday to celebrate the shipment of Camara’s 40,000th refurbished computer, which has now been sent to help spread digital literacy in Tanzania.

For the past seven years, Camara Education has been refurbishing used computers for use in disadvantaged and impoverished communities. Combining these low-cost computers with teacher training, the registered charity has helped spread digital literacy to 500,000 children in Ireland, Africa and the Caribbean.

One school that has benefitted from Camara’s computers, training and educational software is Mercy Secondary School in Inchicore, Dublin. “We have to make sure the teacher skills are keeping up with the students’ skills because they’re way ahead of us in things in IT,” said the school’s principal Treasa Lee. “We’ve seen that in the last five or six years we’ve been working with Camara. They’ve helped us and we’re very appreciative of that.”

Average is over

“Real credit has to go to the head teacher at Mercy for having the confidence to say, ‘We can’t do it on our own. You know what? I’m good, my school is good, but we need help,’” said Puttnam. “The attitude in Ireland tends to be, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Well, the truth is, the system, to an extent, is broke, and it needs fixing.”

Puttnam took the opportunity to highlight the importance of developing digital literacy skills among the next generation. “For this generation, the young people we’re here with today, there is no average,” he said. “They’ve got to be better than average in order even to get a decent job. And if they can be much better than average, they’re going to get great jobs. That is the real challenge for Ireland: It is no longer of any use at all just aiming to be average.”

Delighted to be celebrating a milestone in the presence of the Oscar-winning producer, John Fitzsimons, CEO of Camara Education, said, “Camara is a community of people who believe that poverty is wrong in the 21st century, that education is the key to alleviating it and that technology has the power to radically transform education. Pooling our resources together, we have been able to make a difference in the lives of half a million children. These children would otherwise not have access to the technology necessary to develop digital literacy, an essential skill to not only attaining employment, but also creating it.”

Elaine Burke
By Elaine Burke

Elaine Burke was editor of Silicon Republic until 2023, and is now the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. Elaine joined Silicon Republic in 2011 as a journalist covering gadgets, new media and tech jobs. She later served as managing editor before stepping up as editor in 2019. She comes from a background in publishing and is known for being particularly pernickety when it comes to spelling and grammar – earning her the nickname, Critical Red Pen.

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