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20/20 Trust calls for digital inclusion

Laurence Millar, Guest Post. 05 September 2017, 5:00 am
20/20 Trust calls for digital inclusion

Digital Inclusion - how much do you know?

  1. How many school children in Year 4 and above do not have access to the internet at home?
  2. How many employees think they will need higher digital skills to develop their career?
  3. How many government social programs include the development of digital skills as a standard feature?
  4. What is the annual cost to a consumer of not being online?
  5. What impact has digital technology had on GDP over the last five years?
  6. What is the lowest monthly fee for a family broadband connection ?
  7. When did New Zealand's first virtual medical centre open?

The answers can be found in New Zealand's first Digital Inclusion Manifesto, launched last week.

The Manifesto sets out eight goals covering:

  • Full participation in the digital world
  • Equitable access to digital technologies
  • Support to access the internet and develop the necessary skills
  • Future-focused digital learning opportunities
  • School leavers with work-ready digital skills
  • Increased productivity for NZ businesses from digitally skilled staff
  • Digital skills for a healthy lifestyle
  • Seniors connected with their families and communities.
  • Call to make digital inclusion and skills a priority

The Manifesto calls on government to prioritise digital inclusion and skills as a core element of all its programmes, for education, for employment, for business and for every aspect of New Zealanders' lives.

It is often incorrectly assumed that everyone with a Facebook account is 'digitally literate'; research overseas has shown that students self-assess their digital skills significantly higher than their test results - the "Digital Natives Fallacy". The recent curriculum announcements are a welcome step in the right direction in our education sector, but the needs are not just in education, but also in the workplace and for those seeking work.

Digital skills are a stepping stone out of poverty. Firstly, everyday life is more expensive for people who are not connected; secondly, the process of applying for a job, whether through commercial websites or Work and Income, requires digital skills to locate a position and submit an application; thirdly, an increasing proportion of jobs need basic digital skills. Our research has shown that digital skills provide a unique stepping stone to escape from poverty by improving employment and earning capacity. Without these skills and confidence in a digital world, people are missing out.  

Without universal digital inclusion, the government's new target that 80% of the transactions be fully digital by 2021 will also be a challenge, since many digitally excluded people are high users of government services.

The Digital Inclusion Manifesto has in principle support from a growing number of organisations, including Eastbay REAP, Gisborne District Council, Hui-E, Industry Training Federation, InternetNZ, Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru, Public Libraries NZ, REAP Aotearoa New Zealand, SeniorNet Federation of New Zealand, Southern REAP, Spark New Zealand, Tairawhiti Technology Trust, Taranaki eLearning Trust , Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ), Web Access Waikato Trust, WestREAP and Whanganui Chamber of Commerce. I am hopeful that more organisations are expected to give their support in the coming weeks.

20/20 Trust call on every political party to make clear their policy on digital inclusion. We look forward to a dialogue with the next government on how New Zealand can achieve full digital inclusion.

Laurence Millar is Chair of 20/20 Trust, the leading national provider of digital literacy programmes.


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