The time for addressing digital exclusion in older people is now

We recognise that technology can be hugely beneficial to people, yet we also agree with the Citizen Advice Bureau’s estimation that the increasing reliance on online services is resulting in “some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable people and communities being left behind.” And while the Government claims it’s digital-first model is about “putting people first” [i], it serves to only put some people first.

Banks, including state-owned Kiwibank, have increasingly closed their physical branches and removed the use of cheques. And while digital alternatives such as online banking, mobile apps and SmartATM’s offer a decent service for many kiwis, for those who cannot access or embrace this type of technology their options are incredibly limited. Our Eldernet community have shared their personal frustration and anger with us over the increasing loss of banking services. One member told us they felt their mother was having her “basic human rights” taken away from her “slowly and insidiously”, as she can’t access internet banking, has no easy way to travel to physical branch without a driver’s license and can no longer pay people who help her with cheques. Another commented that “banks don’t care about old people.”

And it’s not just the banks: other government agencies such as Inland Revenue and Ministry of Social Development are making it harder for vulnerable people to manage their money. Their impetus on accessing and filling in forms online, for example, is excluding the very people they should be trying to support. That’s despite lessons the Government should have learned from its 2018 census debacle, where thousands of people were excluded from participating due to its ‘digital-first’ model.

The rollout of the My Vaccine Pass has been fraught with oversights too. For many older kiwis, being able to download their pass to a device is impossible, while getting it emailed to them requires having access to a computer and printer, and a personal email address. And while the Government has provided alternatives (including receiving a hardcopy in the post and having it printed at a pharmacy) these options require having a current passport/driver’s license or birth certificate to hand, or access to transport.

Things are about to get much tougher for those who are regular internet users too. Chorus, who hold most of the Government contracts to install Ultra-Fast Broadband throughout the country, will shut down its copper phone and broadband network in the coming months. This will eventually mean that its customers will be forced to switch to alternatives, such as ultrafast broadband. That switch will likely come with a significant price hike too.   

How many more people need to speak up before something is done to protect the livelihood of our older populations? In the 2016 Healthy Ageing Strategy, the Government states it is “committed to the goals of positive ageing, where older people age well and are healthy, connected, independent and respected.”[ii] Yet cutting core services to our most vulnerable populations seems anything but respectful.

[i] Introduction to NZ’s digital transformation, Accessed on December 9 2021 at

[ii] Citizens Advice Bureau, Face to Face with Digital Exclusion report, February 2020

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

About Mason Head

Mason Head
Content Creator and Publication Lead at Eldernet

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