We recommend that every government agency be tasked with identifying a digital champion.
“We’re doing well in terms of improving connectivity for New Zealanders, but while more people are getting better connectivity, more people are also being left behind.”
This is how Communications Minister Clare Curran summarises the report which shows the digital divide in New Zealand.
“In line with our commitment to open government, I’m releasing the report ‘Digital New Zealanders: The Pulse of our Nation’ which the previous government didn’t make public until after the election as it exposed the digital divide in New Zealand,” says Curran, in a statement.
The report by the Digital Inclusion Group was published in May 2017, and submitted to the MBIE and the DIA.
She says the report provides a good foundation, “but this Government intends to do much more so we can find real solutions for real people.”
The advisory group will help us explore the complex but fundamental issues of how we can reduce the gap between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and will help determine what skills Kiwis need to be ready for the jobs of the future
She points out: “Families on low incomes, seniors, and people living outside urban areas are becoming increasingly disenfranchised by lack of access, the inability to afford the internet or a lack of skills or motivation to be digitally capable. “
The report calls for the need for a single, nationwide policy framework on digital inclusion in New Zealand with input from digitally disadvantaged groups and informed by robust economic data.
“We know not all New Zealanders are participating equally in the digital world – and we need to better understand why that is, and what solutions may be effective in changing that,” says Curran.
“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel and have only to look at the international examples in this report to see what is in train and working around the world. We need to determine what works specifically for us and make it happen,” says Curran.
She says the report, together with other research and data, will be a valuable input to the development of the new government’s blueprint for digital inclusion which we will be developed with the assistance of a soon to be established advisory group.
“The group will help us explore the complex but fundamental issues of how we can reduce the gap between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and will help determine what skills Kiwis need to be ready for the jobs of the future,” she states.
“The Minister is right to raise this concern that there is a growing digital divide,” says NZ Tech CEO Graeme Muller.
“Those that don’t have access to the right technologies or the skills or motivation to make the most of them are being left behind. Left unaddressed, this digital divide will exacerbate the social divide,” says Muller.
Left unaddressed, this digital divide will exacerbate the social divide
“However, if we move faster to address the growing digital divide as a country, we will find that the technology will also help reduce the social divide.
“Giving people the understanding, confidence and skills to use digital tools will help New Zealand prosper," he says.
“The introduction of digital technologies into the New Zealand curriculum in 2018 is a great step in ensuring all Kiwis understand digital technology and how to make the most of it.”
Wanted: government digital inclusion champions
The Digital New Zealanders: The Pulse of our Nation report, meanwhile, says other sectors in government have appointed champions to raise the visibility and awareness of important national issues. It suggests this should also be the case for digital inclusion.
For instance, Sir Peter Gluckman is the Government’s Chief Science Adviser, and Professor Margaret Hyland is Chief Scientist. In the UK, it says, Baroness Martha Lane Fox was appointed Digital Champion in 2010 and when she stood down in 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged that her work “has helped establish a digital culture at the heart of government”.
The report points out New Zealand has its own digital heroes, like Rod Drury of Xero, Frances Valintine of the Mind Lab and Dr Michelle Dickinson (aka Nanogirl).
“But in order to achieve systemic change, we believe New Zealand needs champions within government (both central and local government). We recommend that every government agency be tasked with identifying a digital champion.”
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