Ahead of the general election in October, The Tech Users Association (TUANZ) has called on whoever makes up the next Government to commit to addressing the increasing digital inequity in New Zealand.
Leaders within TUANZ’s membership believe COVID-19 further highlighted the digital divide in New Zealand and this inequity must be addressed to prevent the divide from widening.
“The cost of living crisis is making it harder for stretched families and whanau to access the digital essentials as affordability becomes an increasing issue. This is further exacerbated by the cost of devices and the lack of digital skills within some households. Some estimates are that 20 percent of Kiwis lack the essential digital skills needed to use the internet safely and effectively,” says TUANZ CEO Craig Young.
130,000 households in New Zealand do not have internet access at home (Stats NZ) with Census data showing that those without access are primarily in lower income households.
“As technology develops at a quicker pace, including the explosion of tools like generative AI in 2023, we are likely to see a growing gap in this inequity,” says Craig.
TUANZ believes to have the biggest impact on digital inequity we need to direct our limited resources to those on the lowest incomes.
“To do this we need to have a joint agreed definition on the size of the current affordability issue as well as any eligibility criteria. To help calculate how many households can be supported, we suggest using the upcoming DECA (Digital Equity Coalition Aotearoa) research in this area to determine the cost of the basic package of meaningful digital access (internet access at home, access on the go, devices and basic skills),” says Craig
“We also agree with DECAs recommendation that any funding be distributed through
community intermediaries who have intimate knowledge of their communities and are often a
first point of contact for people in their communities. This could be in the form of bulk funding for essential digital skills, devices and wrap-around support. Funding for connectivity could be built into the model or addressed separately, for example through an MSD (Ministry of Social Development) payment or government subsidy for an equity product or products.”
TUANZ states whatever solution or approach is developed, it should be co-designed with Government, industry and the community.
“This would be the best approach to ensuring that the solution is successful in being delivered to those that need it. It would build on research done by groups like DECA and Government Departments, and could discuss what contribution various parties could contribute to the solution. For example, initial work shows that the current lowest cost wholesale connectivity product is around $40 per month whereas initial work by DECA, and also being advocated for in Australia, is that the affordable product needs to be around $20 per month at the wholesale level.”
TUANZ supports the overall intent of the Government’s Digital Strategy for Aotearoa, but would like to see more traction and intent in implementing the actions from the strategy.
TUANZ has put forward the following recommendations to Government:
- Make digital literacy and proficiency for all New Zealanders a priority for Government.
- Support the concept and development of Affordable Connectivity services.
- Support the co-development and invest in programmes to deliver services to improve digital capability among those that are currently unable to make the most of the opportunities.
For further comment or interview, please contact Craig Young
Phone: 021 488 188