New Zealand launches ‘digital inclusion’ blueprint

By on 12/05/2019
Who’s left out? Smartphones are increasingly important to accessing services (Image courtesy: rawpixel.com/pexels).

The New Zealand government has published guidelines aimed at tackling ‘digital exclusion’ and ensuring that everyone can “participate in, contribute to, and benefit from the digital world.”

Launching the ‘Digital Inclusion Blueprint’, minister for research, science and innovation Megan Woods said: “In a world where the internet impacts more and more of our lives, it’s important that all New Zealanders have the tools and skills they need to access online services and use the internet safely and securely.”

Woods said the report lays out how people can take full advantage of the internet, and will help the government identify groups of New Zealanders who may struggle to access online services. “That’s what we mean when we talk about digital inclusion,” she said. “As more vital services move online, those who don’t have the skills or access will find it more difficult to go about their daily lives.”

Four elements of inclusion

The report says that to be considered “digitally included”, a person requires four elements: motivation, meaning an understanding of the benefits of the internet and the desire to engage with the digital world; access to affordable digital devices, services, software, and content; the skills and know-how to use the internet and digital technology; and trust in online services, along with the digital literacy to manage personal information and avoid online scams and misleading information.

Woods said the government plans on using the blueprint to coordinate future initiatives and identify where investment and action is still required.

Barriers to digital inclusion will be mapped against the four elements, the report says, illuminating who is being left behind and how digital capabilities among those groups can be improved.

Who’s left out?

Research in 2017 from the Digital Inclusion Research Group found that groups at risk of being digitally excluded included the elderly, people living in rural communities, people with disabilities, and poorer families with children. The report also cited a study from 2015 which found that Maori communities are less likely to be digitally included than the wider population.

According to the report, the government will set outcomes, measures, priorities and investment criteria later this year. “The Blueprint is just a starting point for strong, sustainable progress towards a digitally included New Zealand,” it says. “We know things will change in the digital inclusion space and we want to adapt with it. We will refresh the action plan regularly to reflect what is needed next and any changes in our understanding of digital inclusion.”

In the report’s forward, government chief digital officer Paul James wrote: “I am committed to working with my colleagues across the public sector to ensure everyone can access and use the online information, services and products we produce. This means applying existing standards to ensure content on government websites is accessible. It also means thinking about the people who aren’t already online by reducing barriers to access and providing alternative offline channels where we can.”

About Natalie Leal

Natalie Leal is an NCTJ qualified journalist based in the UK. She holds a BSc and Master's degree in Social Anthropology and writes about society, poverty, politics, welfare reform, innovation and sustainable business. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, Positive News, The Brighton Argus, UCAS, Welfare Weekly, Bdaily News and more.

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