An independent Steering Group was established to implement this concept, with representatives from various statutory agencies including DENI, Training and Employment Agency, Queens University Belfast, University of Ulster, Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education, Northern Ireland Centre for Learning Resources and one private training agency Springvale Training. A group of six Trustees for the project was also established chaired by Sir George Quigley, Chairman of Ulster Bank plc.
The project received a large start-up donation of equipment from Apple Macintosh computers and was initially funded by Making Belfast Work, with additional government finance for innovative regeneration work in disadvantaged areas of Belfast, through the conduit of the Department for Education Northern Ireland.
Set up in June 1993, Bytes is a unique initiative that offers free, unlimited access to information technology in a non-pressurised environment, to young people aged from 16 – 25 who have left full time education and are not participating in further education, training or employment and are felt to be at risk in the community. Initially, there were four centres in Belfast – The Ashton Centre in the New Lodge, Worknet on the Falls Road, The Glen Parent and Youth Group in Lenadoon and Rathcoole Youth Club. The name of the project was changed to The Bytes Project in 1996 in recognition of expansion outside of Belfast; the Derry Bytes centre opened in 1997.
In the past 15 years, to keep pace with changes in technology Bytes has moved away from fixed centres with PCs and expanded our mobile hubs, creative ICT and online services. The organisation now works throughout Northern Ireland and attracts funding and donations from a variety of sources. Since 1993, Bytes has supported thousands of young people on pathways to success.