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Social deprivation and the role of the internet

Paul Brislen, Editor. 21 February 2018, 8:04 am

Despite plenty of social media activity, the first part of the D5 conference, held in Auckland as a precursor to the ministerial meeting being held in Wellington today (weather permitting) has passed with barely a mention in the mainstream media.

Only Stuff and Chinese news outlet Xinhau have stories covering the event, which brings together five of the world's would-be leaders in digital technology: New Zealand, Israel, South Korea, the United Kingdom and Estonia.

Minister of IT and communications, Clare Curran, addressed the conference, saying her government wants to shrink the digital divide and that the D5 summit will help "share ideas, identify challenges and solutions, and discuss important global issues such as digital rights, digital trade and digital identity."

Collaboration is key, says the minister.

"None of us has all the answers and we need to work together to come up with the best solutions to ensure we have thriving digital nations. Here in New Zealand we want to close the digital divides by 2020, and to make ICT the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025."

The conference launched without the government's Chief Technology Officer - a role which it was hoped would be filled prior to the event. However the government is casting its net wider in the search for a CTO who will be tasked with delivering the country's first all-encompassing digital strategy and with championing the digital sector.

In her keynote address, Curran highlighted the growing issue of the digital divide and the need to address what she calls "the principle of universality".

"We know from research that the groups most at risk of digital exclusion include:

• Families with children in low socio-economic communities

• People living in rural communities

• People with disabilities

• Migrants and refugees with English as a second language

• Māori & Pasifika Youth

• Offenders and ex-offenders and

• Seniors

Around 150,000 children in our country do not have access to the internet in their homes."

Curran hopes to address these issues in the next two years, and highlights the role internet access plays in social development.

"Otago university's social deprivation index has identified 'lack of internet access at home' as the highest weighted factor affecting social deprivation for working age New Zealanders."


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