Digital skills for life in Aotearoa report: tackling the growing digital divide

Earlier this month, BNZ released its Digital skills for life in Aotearoa report, which included input from the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand and Internet New Zealand. While the report expounded the benefit of digital technologies for “saving people time and money” and “improving social connections”, it also acknowledged that “too many New Zealanders still sit on the digital divide.”

“Unfortunately, the already marginalised and most vulnerable in New Zealand are less likely to have the skills needed to operate effectively in the digital world. If left unaddressed, this digital skills gap risks compounding existing inequalities as the digital transformation rolls on.”

Some of the most worrying statistics in the report are:

  • 700,000 adult New Zealanders (20%) lack the essential digital skills they need to use the internet safely and effectively.
  • Only 73% of people have the digital skills needed for online safety.
  • 42% of people who have a disability and 36% of people who have low household income lack essential digital skills.
  • 1.3 million (37%) people don’t know where to get help to stay secure online.
  • 45% of New Zealanders can’t recognise a safe website to transact with.

The report wasn’t all doom and gloom, however. The report also highlighted that:

  • 95% of New Zealanders agree the internet provides more benefits than disadvantages.
  • 95% of people have access to the internet at home.
  • 93% of New Zealanders have foundational digital skills; 87% know how to communicate online and 85% know how transact online.

So, the question is: how do we ensure people (particularly our most vulnerable communities) have the digital literacy needed to adequately and confidently interact in the digital world? According to BNZ, the following needs to be done to tackle digital exclusion.

  • Scale digital skills training – this is for everyone: All New Zealanders need access to more and better opportunities for digital skills training. People need to be able to access support in their digital learning based on their needs, more so than what any one individual organisation has to offer. InternetNZ are currently pulling the digital inclusion sector together through the Digital Equity Coalition Aotearoa and this work needs to be supported.
  • Remove access barriers for those who face them: These barriers include access to the internet at an affordable price and access to a suitable device. If we are to lift our productivity and improve social inclusion, these access barriers need to be eliminated. New Zealanders who are missing out digitally have the most to gain and we need to collaborate to ensure that access is not a barrier for anyone who wants to get online.
  • Maximise Government’s critical role: Government has a critical role to play in improving digital inclusion, given the promise of digital technologies to lift New Zealand’s economic performance and the wellbeing of New Zealanders. Coordinating Government initiatives across different Ministries within a unifying framework could help maximise impact; in particular, broadening contact with vulnerable New Zealanders through the health and social development systems to help lift their digital capabilities and inclusion.
  • New Zealand businesses have a key role to play: New Zealand firms and corporates need to be doing more to lift digital adoption – building a more productive and thriving New Zealand economy is in everyone’s long-term best interests. Digital skills education needs to be available at the right time in the right place and consistent with how people prefer to learn. For example, the banking industry could actively encourage digital skills development to improve financial capability and ensure no one is left behind.

With banks continuing to shut branches around the country and the removal of cheques, this is a particularly interesting time for BNZ to release a report that so clearly outlines our country’s growing digital divide. While the solutions offered aren’t instantly tangible, it’s a good step in the right direction – especially if all New Zealand banks start moving in the same direction. Ensuring older people have access to financial services that suit their needs is crucial, so we’ll be watching this space eagerly.

Read BNZ’s full Digital skills for life in Aotearoa report here:
https://blog.bnz.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/BNZ_Digital-Skills-Report-2021.pdf

Photo credit: Erik Mclean on Unsplash

About Mason Head

Mason Head
Content Creator and Publication Lead at Eldernet

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