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A plan for better digital inclusion

Peter Griffin, contributor. 15 May 2020, 8:27 am

As the pandemic began to spread around the world and business as usual went out the window, we booted up our laptops, downloaded Zoom and started chewing through the gigabytes on our home broadband connections.

Well, those of us who have broadband and a laptop. The reality is that thousands of Kiwi families still can't afford the devices and connectivity to get online and are missing out on work, educational and social opportunities as a result. During Covid-19, thousands of Chromebook laptops were issued to children so they could complete their studies at home and broadband players helped out by temporarily removing data caps.

But a strategy for digital inclusion post Covid-19 needs to be formulated and fast according to InternetNZ, which has gathered the support of 20 organisations, including IT Professionals, for its plan for digital action published this week. building on the Government's Digital Inclusion Blueprint released last year, the plan identifies the following areas where InternetNZ suggests we need to put our resources and focus:

  1. Affordable connectivity

  2. Getting devices to people who can't afford them

  3. Wrap-around support for the newly connected

  4. Digital skills for displaced workers and our small businesses

  5. Longer term Internet resilience

"We need to ensure no one is left behind as New Zealand works to recover from COVID-19," says InternetNZ chief executive, Jordan Carter.

"We especially need to focus on groups in society that need different kinds of support, including Māori, Pasifika, older people, people with disabilities, those on lower incomes, rural users, and the homeless."

"It's important we take a holistic approach. When people think of those digitally excluded, they often think about infrastructure or cost limitations. But it's much more than that," says Carter.

There was little in the way of specific digital inclusion funding in Budget 2020, which will see a concerted effort across the public and private sector to make progress on those five areas during 2020 as uncertainty over Covid-19 and a potential return of the virus looms large in our lives.

The full plan can be found here.


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