I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 127 together.
The community application of information technology, CAIT, initiative was set up in December 2000 to fund demonstration projects that were to be undertaken primarily by the community and voluntary sector. Two CAIT programmes were launched under the initiative. These programmes sought to explore ways to provide those excluded from the benefits of information and communications technologies with opportunities to engage with them in a meaningful way. The initiative aimed to harness the experiences and knowledge of the community and voluntary sector to encourage citizens to participate fully in the information society. Funding of €7,444,516 has been committed to 121 projects since the launch of the first CAIT programme in December 2000. The projects funded under the second CAIT programme are coming to an end and the overall programme will be completed at the end of this month.
Because of the pilot nature of CAIT, an evaluation of the impact of the initiative was carried out by WRC, social and economic consultants, to identify learning for policy and practice. The evaluation of the initiative, which occurred alongside its implementation, looked at the experience of organisations in implementing their projects and highlights examples of good practice in relation to outreach, incentivising and supporting participation. It makes extensive use of case study data to highlight examples of good practice. Finally, it assesses the contribution that CAIT has made to understanding the potential role of the community sector in promoting inclusion in the information society, and more generally the initiative's contribution to the development of public policy for such inclusion.
Over recent years, information and communication technologies have become more and more a part of everyday life. CAIT brought such technology to those on the margins. I hope that with some refocusing by local groups, the work previously carried out by CAIT can be done within existing structures and resources. The evaluation carried out of the CAIT initiative will be an extremely valuable tool to these groups, and to bodies such as the Information Society Commission, in carrying out this important work in the future.
Technology "late adopters" need much more than physical access and financial support to make information technologies an integral part of their lives. The CAIT programme has fostered a change in attitude among members of the most marginalised communities in our society. A strong understanding of their potential to enhance our daily lives and a sense of empowerment and achievement as new skills are acquired have replaced a lack of confidence surrounding the new technologies. This profound change in attitude in some of our most socially isolated communities will be one of the strongest legacies of the CAIT initiative.
On a tangible level, the CAIT programme has enabled organisations to purchase IT hardware and software according to the specific needs of their communities. Although the CAIT programme has come to an end, the specialist hardware and software for use by people with a wide range of physical and learning disabilities, including adaptive equipment for the elderly, and an extensive range of literacy and numeracy software, will remain a fully accessible resource within their communities. CAIT has helped to address the burden of equipment and infrastructure costs, one of the key barriers preventing access to information technology. CAIT has provided the tools to empower communities to use information technologies in a way that brings about the maximum practical benefits, for example, as a communication and socialisation tool or an educational and information resource tool. CAIT has been concerned with usability for all, and not just accessibility.
The CAIT initiative has directly led to the development of a pool of highly skilled volunteer tutors, who have an in-depth understanding of the psychological and tangible barriers "late adopters" face in engaging with information technologies. A multiplier effect has been generated as computer literacy skills continue to transfer throughout communities.