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Digital inclusion stocktake: What digital inclusion looks like in New Zealand communities

1. Introduction and context

This report describes the findings of a recent stocktake of community-focused digital inclusion initiatives, that is, initiatives that are provided for or by local communities. This includes some exclusively local initiatives, as well as a number that are rolled out nationwide and are implemented locally.

While most initiatives are run by various organisations outside of government, a small proportion (12%) of those discussed in section 2: Digital inclusion initiatives in New Zealand communities are led by central government, but work with local partners to deliver digital inclusion services. For example, Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa (APNK) is run by the National Library but works with public libraries to provide free broadband Internet access to local communities.

This stocktake sketches a picture of the current landscape of initiatives as at May 2019. Having a clearer picture of the current climate will allow better decision-making and support for digital inclusion in the future. Used in conjunction with the recently-completed stocktake of government digital inclusion initiatives, the outcomes framework and measurement strategy, this stocktake offers the potential to shed real clarity on the current climate and future direction of digital inclusion initiatives.

What does digital inclusion mean?

As digital technologies weave their way into our lives, they impact society and the way it does things. It is therefore vital that everyone can participate fully in, and make the most of, our increasingly digital world. This is digital inclusion.

To make the greatest impact a clear, cohesive understanding of what digital inclusion looks like is needed. Key priorities also need to be set to know where the gaps are, so investment can be directed to where it’s most needed.

The government’s current definition for what it means to be digitally included is laid out in the Digital Inclusion Blueprint — Te Mahere mō te Whakaurunga Matihiko (the Blueprint) as:

“…having convenient access to, and the ability to confidently use, the internet through devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets. This focus reflects the way that most people currently interact with the digital world, and that more and more services and day-to-day activities are going online.”

What is needed to be digitally included?

The Blueprint outlines 4 interdependent elements for digital inclusion: motivation, access, skills and trust.

When a person possesses these 4 elements, they can participate in, contribute to and benefit from the digital world — they’re digitally included. But people can’t get there on their own. They need help to learn about and understand digital technologies and the internet. This is where digital inclusion initiatives come in.

What are digital inclusion initiatives?

Digital inclusion is not a new idea in New Zealand. Work to help people who aren’t engaging with the digital world to do has been done by government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for some years.

Digital inclusion initiatives are services, projects or programmes that contribute to enabling everyone to conveniently and confidently use digital devices and the Internet, by increasing their motivation, access, skills or trust.

Why conduct a community stocktake?

The Blueprint lays out the government’s vision for digital inclusion in New Zealand, the role it will play and steps it will take towards realising this vision.

The immediate focus is to build a strong foundation for long-term, sustainable action. Crucial to that foundation is understanding what’s already being done in New Zealand to make more people digitally included.

The Government’s Digital Inclusion 2019 Action Plan – Building the Foundations (the Action Plan) identifies that a stocktake of initiatives will help to:

  1. 1. understand what digital inclusion initiatives look like in New Zealand
  2. 2. identify gaps and connect similar initiatives working towards shared goals
  3. 3. work with providers who have done extensive work in mapping digital inclusion activities, and make these findings visible.

This stocktake, along with the recently-completed stocktake of digital inclusion initiatives across government agencies, gives a better understanding of the state of digital inclusion today.

Limitations to the stocktake

This stocktake is as comprehensive as possible given the scope and the time allotted. However, there are a large number of digital inclusion initiatives in New Zealand and it is likely that not all of them have been identified. The stocktake indicates the general situation to date but may not be exhaustive.

As mentioned, the report reflects the stocktake as a snapshot of digital inclusion in New Zealand communities as at May 2019. It has uncovered what appears to be a very high turnover among digital inclusion initiatives. Within the period of time it took to assemble and report on this stocktake, a number of initiatives have been discontinued, and yet more new initiatives have cropped up. Therefore, this snapshot can only represent the time at which it was taken and may not continue to be an accurate reflection of community-focused digital inclusion initiatives in New Zealand as time continues.

It should be noted that, while this work is referred to as the ‘communities’ or ‘NGO stocktake’, a number of the initiatives reported on here are led, funded or conducted in partnership with government agencies. The stocktake numbers capture a proxy of intervention breadth (geographically; by target group), but do not capture other measures of breadth (number of individuals served), depth (degree to which individuals were served), or the quality or success of the interventions. Also note that, for reasons of confidentiality, funding sources and funding amounts for digital inclusion initiatives are not discussed in this report.

2. Digital inclusion initiatives in New Zealand communities

The stocktake captured a total of 151 digital inclusion initiatives at work across the country. Stocktake research was conducted by members of the Department of Internal Affair’s (DIA’s) digital inclusion team between October 2018 and May 2019. The 20/20 Trust’s digital inclusion map was used as a springboard for the research. From there, further initiatives were found. Interviews, mainly over the phone, were conducted between March and May 2019 to fill the gaps in existing knowledge of these initiatives.

Of the 151 initiatives reviewed:

  • 119 initiatives were active (79%)
  • 23 initiatives were inactive (15%)
  • the status of 9 initiatives was unknown (6%).

Initiatives not in scope for this report

The inactive initiatives are excluded from further analysis in this report.

Also, many of the active initiatives reviewed in the stocktake fall outside the scope of this report and will not be discussed. This is because while these initiatives contributed to the government’s wider concept of digital inclusion, they were not focused on enabling people to conveniently and confidently use digital devices and the internet, in line with the Blueprint’s definition of what it means to be digitally included today. Of the 119 active initiatives, 64 are in scope of this stocktake.

While it is these 64 initiatives that will be assessed in this stocktake, the omitted active initiatives that fall outside the scope of this report may merit further investigation as the present definition of what it means to be digitally included evolves to match the changing nature of society and digital technologies.

Note: At present, the information on the active initiatives that fall outside the scope of this report is patchy. The digital inclusion team lacked time to contact all the 119 active initiatives in the stocktake, and so chose to prioritise filling in the gaps in the information they had on those 64 initiatives that fell within the scope defined above.

How these initiatives map to the 4 elements of digital inclusion

As outlined above, the 4 elements a person needs in order to be digitally included are skills, access, motivation and trust.

Among the initiatives analysed, by far the most common were those focusing on skills, with 43 initiatives (67%) aiming to improve participants’ digital skills in some capacity.

The next most commonly addressed, the access element, was broken down into 3 sub-categories for the purposes of the stocktake:

  • Access to a device (addressed by 21 initiatives, or 33%)
  • Access to a connection (addressed by 35 initiatives, or 55%)
  • Accessibility of digital content (addressed by 9 initiatives, or 14%).

Motivation and trust equalled third most common, at 7 initiatives (or 11%) each.

Note: The percentages tally to greater than 100% because many initiatives address more than 1 element and were each counted once against all the elements they addressed.

See Appendix A: Stocktake category definitions for a more detailed breakdown of the definitions used for each element when conducting this stocktake. While it is possible that, for example, many skills initiatives also address motivation and trust indirectly, these are only categorised as such if they were explicit in doing so.

Groups targeted by these initiatives

The Blueprint identifies a number of groups more likely to be digitally excluded, including seniors, people with disabilities, people living in rural communities, families with children living in low socioeconomic communities, and Māori.

Ascertaining which of these groups digital inclusion initiatives are targeting will highlight which groups are not receiving much attention from current initiatives and are in need of more support.

Note: The percentages in these tables tally to greater than 100%, as some initiatives targeted more than 1 of the groups listed, and so were counted once in each of the relevant categories.

Table 1 shows age groups that are able to or expected to want to participate in the initiative.

Table 1. Age groups targeted by digital inclusion initiatives
Age group Number of initiatives Percentage of initiatives
Children, youth and families 16 25%
People of working age and
tertiary students
15 23%
Seniors 14 22%
Age not relevant 28 44%

Table 2 shows groups that are targeted by digital inclusion initiatives, but they may or may not be the only groups that are expected to participate — that is, different to inclusion.

Table 2. Other groupings targeted by digital inclusion initiatives
Target grouping Number of initiatives Percentage of initiatives
Women and girls 0 0%
Māori 5 8%
People with disabilities 0 0%
Teachers 2 3%
People with low incomes 13 20%
Organisations and schools 3 5%
No target demographic 44 69%


  • Within the wider stocktake dataset, some initiatives did specifically target women and girls, and people with disabilities. However, these initiatives focused on areas outside the scope of this report. For example, some initiatives aimed at teaching women and girls to code, a skill which falls outside the scope of enabling a person to become digitally included. Initiatives that included teaching coding and other such skills (for example, robotics) may well fall within future scopes for government on digital inclusion.
  • See Appendix A: Stocktake category definitions for definitions of the target groups used. Targeting was quite tightly defined. For example, an initiative would only be listed as targeting Māori if it explicitly stated so. Some initiatives that targeted Māori indirectly, such as those that operated in locations with high Māori populations, were not included in this definition.

Types of organisations running these initiatives

Initiatives are run by a number of different organisations, including central and local government, in partnership with local communities. Table 3 shows the types of organisations providing initiatives.

Table 3. Types of organisations running digital inclusion initiatives
Organisation type Number of initiatives Percentage of initiatives
Central government 9 14%
Collaboration 2 3%
Community group/not-for-profit 33 52%
Local government 1 2%
Māori organisation 2 3%
Private sector 5 8%
Tertiary education 10 16%
Unknown 2 3%


  • ‘Running’ refers to the type of organisation leading the initiative and does not have connection to the type of organisation providing funding for the initiative. Refer to Appendix A: Stocktake category definitions for a detailed breakdown of how each organisation type was defined.
  • ‘Collaboration’ is a blanket category, used to capture all initiatives that are jointly run or supported by 2 or more different organisation types. For example, Stepping UP is run by Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (a not-for-profit group) in conjunction with various delivery partners, mainly libraries (which are run by local government).

Evaluation of initiatives

We all evaluate things every day, and we use those value judgements to make decisions. In the discipline of formal evaluation, we combine evidence with explicit criteria for value, to understand:

  • how well an initiative is working
  • ways it is working well
  • how it could be better.

It is important to understand how many digital inclusion initiatives in the community and NGO sector have undergone a degree of formal evaluation.

Eleven initiatives (17%) have been formally evaluated. A further 4 initiatives (6%) have an upcoming evaluation planned. Five more initiatives (8%) had no formal evaluation but underwent some form of monitoring to track the progress and effectiveness of their work.

Nine initiatives in the stocktake (14%) explicitly had neither formal nor informal evaluation in place. The evaluation status of the majority (35 initiatives, or 55%) was unknown.

Umbrella programmes supporting digital inclusion initiatives

For the purposes of this stocktake, an umbrella programme is a digital inclusion programme or project that works to support a number of other digital inclusion initiatives across the country.

Appendix B: List of known umbrella programmes provides a full summary of all umbrella programmes found in this stocktake.

Where digital inclusion initiatives are active

Digital inclusion initiatives are happening all over New Zealand. Some run nationwide; others are constrained to a few regions; others still operate only in 1 region of the country. Table 4 shows which regions digital inclusion initiatives are active in. The regions are not necessarily where the initiatives are based.

Table 4. Digital inclusion initiatives by region
Region Number of initiatives Percentage of initiatives
Auckland 6 9%
Bay of Plenty 1 2%
Canterbury 2 3%
Gisborne 2 3%
Hawke’s Bay 4 6%
Manawatu-Wanganui 6 9%
Multiple regions 5 8%
Nationwide 27 42%
Northland 4 6%
Taranaki 1 2%
Waikato 1 2%
Wellington 5 8%

Note: ‘Multiple regions’ is a blanket category, used to capture all initiatives that concurrently run or are supported in 2 or more regions across New Zealand.

A more in-depth analysis could reveal some of the reasons why certain regions boast more initiatives than others, despite lacking in population size.

We know that those living in rural communities are more likely to be digitally excluded and are therefore in particular need of support. Table 5 shows that considerably more initiatives (9) specifically target rural communities as compared to those that target urban communities (4).

Table 5. Digital inclusion initiatives that target urban and rural populations
Target area Number of initiatives Percentage of initiatives
Urban only 4 6%
Rural only 9 14%
Both urban and rural 28 44%
Unknown 23 36%

Concluding thoughts

  • Work towards digital inclusion is supported by a wide range of organisations.
  • Skills is clearly a well-supported element in the New Zealand community, as is access — in particular, access to a connection. It is possible that initiatives that directly address these elements also indirectly address other elements. Due to the tight definitions employed in the stocktake research, such impacts have not been captured here. It may, therefore, be worth a further investigation into how comprehensively the other elements — particularly those of motivation and trust — are being addressed in the community at present.
  • Collectively, more than half of the initiatives address 1 or more of the age groups specified. The 3 target age groups are addressed with fairly even frequency.
  • Fewer than half of the initiatives explicitly target a particular at-risk group. However, as shown in table 2, this appearance is due in part to the tight definitions of target groups used in this stocktake. Further investigation is recommended to determine if these at-risk groups could become more digitally included with the help of more initiatives that address their needs, or whether current initiatives are supporting them adequately.
  • Few digital inclusion initiatives have been formally evaluated. There may be a need to help more initiatives embed evaluation practises into their mahi.
  • It may be worth investigating whether some successful initiatives operating in the regions can be scaled up to operate nationwide.
  • It may be worth investigating whether regions with few to no locally-operating initiatives (for example, Canterbury has few local initiatives, and Southland has none) are being well-served by nationwide initiatives, and how to best ensure people in these regions are not being left behind.
  • Further investigation into the merits of supporting digital inclusion initiatives that specifically target people living in rural communities may be worthwhile.

3. Other work on mapping digital inclusion activities

This stocktake of digital inclusion initiatives has not occurred in isolation; other work has been conducted, both in government and in the community, to map digital inclusion activities across the country.

Stocktake of digital inclusion initiatives across government

In April 2019, the Department of Internal Affairs completed a stocktake of government-run digital inclusion initiatives. This stocktake was carried out by survey. Government agencies were asked to report on any activities that contributed to enabling people to conveniently and confidently use digital devices and the internet. Findings were presented in the form of a report, which sought to understand the current landscape of digital inclusion initiatives across government. It highlights what is happening across government and where opportunities are for future work.

Digital inclusion map

20/20 Trust’s digital inclusion map is an interactive map of New Zealand listing a number of digital inclusion initiatives across the country.

This map was a valuable resource in compiling the stocktake, as the entries formed a base of information from which the stocktake was built.

Digital divide map

InternetNZ and 2020 Trust collaborated to build and share an interactive map which “…shows the different digital divides facing New Zealanders and their communities.” This map shows levels of digital inclusiveness as well as social wellbeing in a particular area. It also rates infrastructure availability, access to infrastructure and digital skill levels.

The community stocktake could be of value in conjunction with such resources, to build on existing information and create a more detailed picture of the current state of digital inclusion in New Zealand.

4. Informal takeaways from stocktake engagement

To fill in some of the gaps in the stocktake where information was not easily or clearly available online, we engaged with providers of digital inclusion initiatives. This was done primarily through phone conversations, although some kōrero was also undertaken over email and in person.

Insights we gleaned from this engagement can be summarised as follows:

  • Smaller initiatives anecdotally have the hardest time with the structure of government funding. Government funding is seen by some as too restrictive, too prescriptive and difficult to secure.
  • Some computer courses are funded solely through course fees, whereas others are funded via a mix of fees and government subsidies. Fees that we were told about ranged from $50 to $100 for 6- to 7-week courses.
  • The general lack of evaluation undertaken by providers of their initiatives can be attributed, at least in part, to lack of resources.
  • Volunteers form the basis of most digital inclusion initiatives, unless the initiative is a paid course. Most community organisations, trusts and not-for-profit organisations have 2 to 3 part-time employees or even just 1 full-time employee.
  • Many of the initiatives and organisations spoken to are barely able to remain operational. Others, however, have been experiencing encouraging growth.
  • In many cases, there was a strong connection between digital inclusion courses and a wider focus of adult education and employment opportunities.
  • Many community organisations believe they have created the right programme and infrastructure to help people in their community access a device and a connection. They care for and know about the people they are attempting to reach. However, in many cases it is perceived that a lack of funding or trust from government is preventing such initiatives from reaching a wider range of people.

Appendix A: Stocktake category definitions

Definitions of the stocktake categories used in this report.

Inclusion elements addressed

More detailed breakdown of each inclusion element addressed (that is, access broken down into 3 sub-elements, skills, motivation, trust).

  • Yes = the project addresses this element directly.
  • No = it doesn't address this element directly.
  • ? = unsure.

Included ages

  • Children/youth/families = interventions that target children (up to 12 years) and/or youth (12–24 years). Includes interventions that target the families of children/youth and interventions that target school teachers.
  • Working age/tertiary student = interventions that target working-age adults or tertiary students. Some age groups overlap with older youth and seniors — select this category if the intervention is more work-related.
  • Seniors = interventions that include senior citizens (50+ years, with less of a focus on work-relevant digital skills). Note that this category includes a number of interventions that include any adult, that is, are not meant specifically for seniors.
  • All ages/not relevant = interventions that target all ages, or where age is not relevant (for example, training initiatives that include youth, working ages and seniors, community wireless hubs that are open to all who can access it, national initiatives that aim to improve knowledge/trust in the internet).

Target groups (excluding age)

Groups that are targeted, but that may or may not be the only groups that are expected to participate — that is, different to inclusion.

  • Women/girls = interventions that target women or girls.
  • Māori = interventions that target Māori. As a guide, include those run by Māori organisations (for example, marae) for their people, but do not include an intervention just because it runs in an area with a high proportion of Māori.
  • Disabled = interventions that target people with certain disabilities, for example, hearing- and sight-impaired.
  • Teachers = interventions that target teachers, for example, resources to improve their teaching.
  • Low income = interventions that target people or families on low incomes.
  • Organisations/schools = interventions that target organisations (businesses, schools, government, not for profits) with organisational-level (rather than individual-level) support. Do not select just because an intervention is delivered by or in schools. Do not select just because an intervention targets teachers.
  • None = interventions that do not specifically target any of the above. May or may not be restricted by locality. May or may not include all ages. For example: a community wireless hub, or a community centre or training initiative that is open to all ethnicities, genders, income bands.

Targets digitally excluded

  • Yes = focuses on ensuring that everyone can conveniently and confidently access and use digital devices and the internet. Includes accessibility initiatives that make parts of the internet more accessible for disabled users, and initiatives that make online activities safer.
  • No = focuses on upskilling people who already access and use the internet in their day-to-day lives, or
    • is a digital tool that facilitates social inclusion, or
    • is a digital or offline activity that aids our general understanding of digital inclusion but does not specifically intervene to create better inclusion, or
    • is a grants scheme that funds some digital inclusion projects. The projects themselves should be counted instead to avoid doubling up.

If in doubt, classify interventions as “Yes”.


Regions this initiative targets.

Note: The region is not necessarily where the initiative headquarters is based.

Urban/rural target

  • Urban = if the initiative targets people in major, large, medium or small urban areas, as defined by Statistics New Zealand (see resources below).
  • Rural = if the initiative targets people in rural settlements, or outside of any settlement or urban area, as defined by Statistics New Zealand (see resources below).
  • Untargeted = the initiative does not specifically target either urban or rural areas.
  • Unknown = no information on this is available.

These resources can be used to help clarify urban and rural areas:

  • Urban areas of New Zealand — list of major, large, medium and small urban areas
  • StatsNZ map — shows major, large, medium and small urban areas and rural settlements; filter by Urban-Rural.

Organisation type

Type of organisation providing the initiative. Includes private sector, central government, local government, tertiary education institution, charity, community group, marae, non-profit, collaboration (list all parties), other (specify).

  • Central government = an initiative owned by a public service organization that looks after the entire nation. For example, DIA, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
  • Collaboration = there are a number of initiatives that exist because of the coming together of organisations from different sectors. To capture a collaboration, enter ‘Collaboration:’ followed by the types of organisations involved, in alphabetical order. For example, ‘Collaboration: community group/not for profit, private sector, school’. This ensures consistency across entries.
  • Community group/not-for-profit = an initiative owned by a community group or organisation, or a charity or not-for-profit organisation. Does not include the Māori organisations that are in the ‘Māori organisation’ category.
  • Local government = an initiative owned by a regional council or territorial authority.
  • Māori organisation = an initiative owned by a marae or other Māori organisation. Does not include the 3 wānanga registered under section 162 of the Education Act 1989: Te Wānanga o Raukawa, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi — these are instead included in the ‘tertiary education’ category.
  • Private sector = an initiative owned by a private sector (“the part of the economy that is run by individuals and companies for profit and is not state controlled.” Investopedia) organisation. Does not include private training establishments that provide post-secondary education — these are instead included in the ‘tertiary education’ category. Does not include the Māori organisations that are in the ‘Māori organisation’ category.
  • School = an initiative owned by a primary, intermediate or secondary school.
  • Tertiary education = an initiative owned by an education institution that provides post-secondary education (for people out of school). Includes universities, private training establishments (PTEs), institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) that provide post-secondary education, and wānanga.
  • Unknown = no information found.


Status of the project as at last update. If nothing can be found on this, enter ‘Unknown’.

  • Active = project is active and ongoing.
  • Inactive = project was discontinued, has been placed on hold, has been completed, or has not posted any recent updates, for example, on its social media.
  • Unknown = information not found.

Evaluation status

Status of evaluation of the initiative.

  • Upcoming = evaluation is underway or planned, or strong efforts are being made to establish evaluation.
  • Evaluated = initiative has been evaluated at least once in its lifetime.
  • Monitored = monitoring that could support evaluation has been done, but these activities do not constitute formal evaluation and no formal evaluation upcoming.
  • None = no evaluation completed or upcoming.
  • Other = entry for this initiative is unclear.
  • Unknown = so far, no information on evaluation status/no published information found.

Umbrella programme association

Umbrella programmes supporting this project. If no information available/not known, enter 'Unknown'.

Appendix B: List of known umbrella programmes

For the purposes of this stocktake, an umbrella programme is a digital inclusion programme or project that works to support a number of other digital inclusion initiatives across the country.

Of those found, 23 initiatives (36%) were associated with 1 or more digital inclusion umbrella programmes. Of the remainder, this question was not applicable to 11 initiatives (17%). Two initiatives (3%) were not associated with any umbrella programme. And for 28 initiatives (44%), whether or not they associated with an umbrella programme remains unknown.

The following is a summary of all the umbrella programmes in this stocktake.

  • Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa (APNK) — provides free access to broadband Internet services from public libraries so that everyone can benefit from accessing, experiencing and creating digital content. Run by the National Library of New Zealand.
  • Digital Māori Forum — aimed at advocating for Māori ICT businesses, and increasing Māori participation in the ICT industry.
  • Stepping UP — free community-based training that builds digital skills and knowledge. Local venues include public libraries, schools and community centres. Run by Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA).
  • Spark Jump — a low-cost, pre-paid Internet service for families with children under the age of 18. Run by the Spark Foundation.
  • Literacy Aotearoa digital literacy course — free course on basic digital literacy offered at various locations across the country. Run by Literacy Aotearoa.
  • Rural Education Activities Programmes (REAP) digital literacy training — 13 REAPS across New Zealand offer a range of education opportunities, including digital literacy.
  • SeniorNet — a community training network that supports and motivates seniors (people over the age of 50) to enjoy and use technology in their everyday lives.
  • Equitable Digital Access for Students (EDA4S) — a Ministry of Education-led initiative exploring ways to provide internet access at home for the estimated 100,000 school students in 40,000 households who currently lack an internet connection.
  • Manaiakalani — an education programme that (among other activities) supports parents to buy a personal digital device for each learner and provides wireless Internet access at home and school.
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