The Innovation Partnership, a body sponsored by Google, Chorus and InternetNZ, says New Zealand is falling short on ‘digital inclusion’ and it has called on Government to address the issue in collaboration with other organisations.
Its conclusions come from a study Digital Inclusion in New Zealand: Assessing Government policy approaches and initiatives, authored by Catherine Soper, a policy analyst working for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The study reviews a range of digital inclusion strategies in the United Kingdom, Finland, Singapore and Australia and identifies lessons for New Zealand. It found that governments in these other nations had given broader policy focus to improving digital skills and inclusion.
The study defines digital inclusion as “using technology to create social and economic involvement, overcoming challenges such as access, skills, motivation, confidence and trust.”
According to Soper “Much of New Zealand’s focus until now has been on improving access. Now it’s time to step up and ensure all citizens have the skills, motivation, confidence and trust to live and work in a digital world. New Zealand can learn by the examples of others.”
Her report calls for targeted policy and initiatives from government, industry, NGOs and educators to “help lift New Zealanders’ digital skills.” It says New Zealand needs better and more accessible data on who is excluded, and an improved understanding of what digital skills are needed to improve digital fluency.
It calls on the Government to “lead the development of good data that defines digital exclusion, provides clear indicators and measures, enables the development of targeted initiatives, and ensures we can monitor change.”
The partnership says such initiatives are needed if New Zealand is to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy. The report cites research that, it says, shows GDP could be lifted by $34 billion and the average household save $1,000 a year if businesses and households had the skills and confidence to make better use of online services.
“Despite a number of strategies and reports since 2001, and progress being made, some people are still excluded,” the partnership says. “For example, research shows that young, well-educated people in urban areas tend to use the Internet more, and that people in low socio-economic and rural areas are more likely to be digitally excluded.”