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Tale of two reports on digital inclusion

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 26 November 2019, 6:00 am

As broadband infrastructure improves and public and private offerings migrate online, access to a basic internet service becomes more critical for all New Zealand citizens.

The Department of Internal Affairs has begun a programme looking into how the Government can support a coordinated approach to tackling the issue. As part of this work, it commissioned the economic research institute Motu to consider digital inclusion and its connection to wellness.

Motu referenced four large-scale surveys - NZ Crime & Victims Survey, NZ Electoral Survey, Programme for International Student Assessment and Programme for the International Assessment of Audit Competencies - for its report published this month. It concludes there are seven groups that are "prone to relatively low access to the internet". They are:

  • people living in social housing
  • people with disabilities
  • Pasifika
  • Māori
  • people living in larger country towns (10,000 to 25,000 people)
  • older members of society, particularly those aged over 75 years
  • unemployed people and those not actively seeking work

Motu notes that the first two groups - those who live in social housing, and people with disabilities - are "potentially amenable to policy interventions."

"Most social housing is owned by the state, local authorities or NGOs. The social housing provider could take the initiative to install WiFi (or other technologies) to enable internet access by tenants. Provision of such infrastructure may be considered of similar importance to provision of water, sewerage and electricity to these tenants. Such provision is also likely to improve internet access rates for Pasifika students," the report reads.

"Similarly, many people with disabilities are already subject to some form of care by state agencies or NGOs. These authorities may consider enabling internet use for their clients as a key intervention to improve the opportunities for those with disabilities to connect with the rest of society."

As it happens, last month the 2020 Trust, which has been working for many years to assist New Zealand households get online, wrote about its involvement at NetHui this year and referenced its own report to the DIA and MBIE, which was produced in 2017.

It also identifies seven 'target groups' which are similar to Motu's list, and are as follows:

  • 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
  • seniors

In the article, it quotes 2018 Census figures that show 21% or 340,000 New Zealand households report no internet access. Suggestions for tackling the issue include focussing on community-based actions. For example, "enticing and engaging communities such as the work of Digital Seniors in the Wairarapa and Pasifika churches in South Auckland (fish where the fish are")".

You can read the Motu report here and the 2020 post here


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