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Walking into TaiTech is a little bit like being enveloped in a hug. You’ll be welcomed at the door by Polly Crawford and depending on the day and time, the air will be abuzz with the hum of laughter and learning, and the whiff of home baking drifting through from the tearoom.

The Tairawhiti Technology Trust (TaiTech) is all about giving people a hand up on their business and digital skills journeys. Sandra Groves recently went along to their Whare Atamai drop-in business hub in the Kāiti mall to find out just what goes on in there.

TaiTech is run by a group of passionate people who believe in providing a community hub for people who want to develop ideas by using technology. The hub expanded from the ‘Gizzy Geeks’, a group of IT professionals who were working together to better integrate technology into our wider community.

In 2019 Taitech started out as a once-weekly-hub at the Ka Pai Kāiti offices, soon growing to five times a week within the space of a few months. Funding from the Kanoa- Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment allowed them to open full-time, running daily courses in their own Whare Atamai hub.

TaiTech’s Operations Manager Polly Crawford has been involved from the early days and is amazed at the way in which the hub has continued to grow in popularity as well as scope. There are opportunities to start with the basics and upskill your digital skills, and many of Taitech’s participants are kaumātua/seniors. The hub has adjusted its programme over time to offer a wider range of business training too.

One of their offerings is a one-on-one course for people who don’t currently have a smartphone, and in some cases, have never had one - thanks to Digital Wings, who refurbish digital devices. In this course participants can learn the basics like making a phone call, turning it on and off, adding contacts, texting, using voice and swipe texting. It might sound like simple stuff, but for those who have never had the opportunity to use a smartphone, let alone learn how to, this kind of opportunity is nothing short of life changing.

A long-time student of the phone and computer course, Turei Walker, thinks the hub is an amazing place. He didn’t know anything about using a mobile phone, and now he feels heaps more confident. He reckons the mix of different cultures of the participants and the manaakitanga of the tutors make for an awesome learning environment “They make you feel at home and really look after you.”

Taitech also holds workshops on everything from understanding copyright to small business needs, networking and tax advice. Much of the training is supported by Trust Tairawhiti, IRD, local businesses and subsidised by organisations like the Sunrise Foundation, Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA) and MBIE. DIAA provides courses that specifically cater to kaumātua such as ‘Appy Seniors’ for over 65’s and free ‘Better Digital Futures’ computer courses.

Classes on email technology, social media, and online banking and shopping are also being integrated into the programme and other training options being considered for the future include how to use a Smart TV and video communications such as Zoom.

One of the groups that meet regularly at the hub is the Creative Writing Group. Regina de Wolf-Ngarimu loves the relaxed environment and getting to meet other creative people. Everyone shares their stories and knowledge in a way you wouldn’t normally, she says, and adds that with a lonely pastime such as writing, engaging with other people really helps.

So, if you have been thinking it’s time to work on your digital skills, need business training or just want to connect with other people, head along to TaiTech and speak to Polly, she would love to see you!

Taitech also offers their venue for seminars, workshops and meetings by other groups.

TaiTech is open Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm in the Kāiti mall. You can contact them by email: and you can follow them on Facebook.

Story by Sandra Groves


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