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Report: Digital inclusion user insights — Māori


E ngā whānau, e ngā hāpori, me ngā iwi tēnei te mihi atu mō tō koha kia hāpai ngā rangahau.

Nā reira, nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

We’d like to acknowledge the families, communities and Māori organisations who participated in this collaboration. Therefore, with your expertise and our resources, the people will thrive.

Digital participation is crucial during a global pandemic

Digitally, Aotearoa New Zealand was not prepared for the effects of COVID-19.

Facing a global pandemic, thousands of people worked, learned and socialised from home. Businesses shifted all aspects of their marketing, sales, products and services online and adopted e-commerce practices to survive.

Iwi, hapū and whānau did the same. They found new ways to connect on a daily basis and during critical times, such as during tangihanga.

COVID-19 highlighted how fundamental digital inclusion is for New Zealand’s wellbeing, and how significant the real-world impacts are for those who are excluded, particularly Aotearoa New Zealand’s Māori communities.

So, when the internet and digital devices became the country’s main access point to the world outside, Māori who did not have what they needed to participate were at a serious disadvantage.

As the internet became a vital tool during the lockdown to provide support to people who needed it, build community, and share information and updates from officials and elected representatives, many Māori missed out.

Today, as the pandemic continues, overcoming the challenges for digitally-excluded individuals and groups has become more urgent and more pronounced.

That’s why it’s important for government organisations and others to keep the realities of the digital divide – and who it impacts most – at the forefront of their thinking, planning and action.

Digital exclusion is worse for Māori

Government’s best estimate is that 1 in 5 people in Aotearoa New Zealand lacks at least 1 of the 4 elements needed to be digitally included – motivation, access, skills or trust.

Research such as Motu’s Digital Inclusion and Wellbeing in New Zealand also shows digital exclusion is worse for Māori when compared with the wider population.

Data shows that the people most at risk of digital exclusion in Aotearoa New Zealand include:

  • Māori
  • disabled people
  • Pacific people
  • people in social housing
  • seniors
  • the unemployed and underemployed
  • remote communities.

User experience research

As part of the government’s commitment to building an evidence base for digital inclusion, the Digital Inclusion programme within the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has begun publishing a series of user experience (UX) reports.

The goal of the research is to help the digital inclusion community better understand what digital exclusion looks like for groups such as Māori, who are at risk of digital exclusion in Aotearoa New Zealand today.

It also aims to help the digital inclusion community better understand how and why people need to work together to design and deliver solutions that address digital exclusion for Māori.

It has been written using first-hand quotes to bring the real-life thoughts, experiences and feelings of whānau Māori, hapū and iwi to the fore and to provide a way for Māori communities to speak directly and in their own words to readers.

Our role is to help design the future, not transform the past ...

Organisational leader

As digital technologies have become so pervasive in everyday life, it’s vital that everyone can participate fully in, and make the most of, the increasingly digital world.

This is the goal of digital inclusion.

Thank you and disclaimer

The research team would like to extend their warmest ngā mihi to everyone who participated in this UX research project, particularly a south Taranaki iwi, Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi, and the iwi Trust, Tātau Tātau o Te Wairoa. Thank you for working with the team to organise and carry out interviews with iwi members. The research team is very grateful for your manaakitanga and for supporting their mahi. Kia ora rawa atu.

The research team would like to note that the information and findings featured in this report reflect the views of the individuals who were interviewed and the various groups that they represent.

Key findings

The cause and effect of digital exclusion and inclusion is complex and variable. This is a challenge for government and other organisations, who are working to develop a comprehensive and workable plan, to close the digital divide. For example, in this report some interviewee comments seem to contradict other interviewee comments. This demonstrates the complexity and variability of each individual’s circumstances, and those of their whānau, hapū or iwi.

Four primary themes were identified by the interviewees who contributed to this report.

1. More affordable internet and device access

Māori communities say that unaffordable internet and devices is the primary barrier to digital inclusion. They believe improved access to affordable internet and devices would bring them a range of important social, economic and education-related benefits.

Specifically, it would help them to:

  • learn
  • communicate
  • access cultural information
  • work and do business
  • carry out cultural practices
  • do business on marae.

2. Strong leadership and power sharing between government and iwi

Māori leaders want to work with others to address the digital divide. They believe strong leadership from government on the issues related to digital inclusion, coupled with a genuine willingness to partner with iwi, will play a major role in achieving that goal.

3. Digital first and online-by-default strategies are marginalising some whānau

Whānau who struggle most with the digital world are concerned government and other organisations, such as banks, are leaving them behind as traditional face-to-face customer services are replaced by online services.

Yet, many also believe that if the cost barriers to the internet and devices were significantly reduced and digital skills training was readily available, it would help transition most whānau to the online world.

4. Skills training for all ages

Māori of all ages and geographic locations clearly see the need for accessible skills training that’s provided by people they know and trust.

Whānau and leaders want access to skills training in the education sector, in the community, at work and, ideally, in marae.

Māori communities see the need for courses in:

  • basic literacy and computer skills
  • programming and design
  • business and technology skills
  • maintaining wellbeing in the digital world.

Purpose of the research

The purpose of this research was to:

  • better understand how whānau Māori, hapū and iwi think and feel about digital inclusion
  • canvas Māori leaders to better understand their perspectives on digital inclusion
  • gain insight into the broader issues of motivation, access, skills and trust
  • understand what improvements could be made to ensure a more equitable digital environment for Māori.

Primary audience

The report has been written for anyone with an interest in digital inclusion, but, in particular:

  • Māori communities and leaders
  • government, business and non-government leaders
  • policy makers
  • researchers
  • the UX, tech and design communities.

Definitions and framework

This research drew on the vision of digital inclusion set out in the Digital Inclusion Blueprint, Te Mahere mō te Whakaurunga Matihiko (the Blueprint) and the Blueprint’s definition of the 4 elements of digital inclusion.

The vision for digital inclusion

The vision is that everyone has what they need to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from the digital world.

The 4 elements of digital inclusion

There are 4 interdependent elements, which are all needed for a person to be digitally included. They are motivation, access, skills, and trust.

  1. Motivation: Understanding how the internet and digital technology can help us connect, learn, or access opportunities, and consequently have a meaningful reason to engage with the digital world.
  2. Access: Having access to digital devices, services, software, and content that meet our needs at a cost we can afford; and being able to connect to the internet where you work, live and play. Access is a broad element, which can be broken into 3 key parts: connectivity, affordability and accessibility.
  3. Skills: Having the know-how to use the internet and digital technology in ways that are appropriate and beneficial for each of us.
  4. Trust: Trusting in the internet and online services; and having the digital literacy to manage personal information, and to understand and avoid scams, harmful communication and misleading information. This element also touches on online safety, digital understanding, confidence and resilience.

The vision and elements of digital inclusion provide a framework for understanding digital inclusion in the New Zealand context and for discussing the challenges faced by different groups in New Zealand. They were also used to design this research.

User experience research

User research or user experience (UX) research focuses on understanding user behaviours, needs and motivations. User experience researchers systematically gather in-depth insights into people’s needs, building up a context within which the design process can take place.

Why digital inclusion matters now more than ever

As Aotearoa New Zealand continues to respond to COVID-19, the challenges for digitally-excluded groups persist and are likely to become more pronounced if the government organisations responsible for digital inclusion and others fail to work together to address the digital divide.

4 personal stories

Tama’s story: Affordable connectivity is crucial for rural marae

Tama (not his real name) is on a mission to bring urban whānau back to his rural marae.

He believes affordable access to the internet could help.

I’d love to see our marae community flourish again. But there’s little in our tiny village to attract the next generation. It’s hard to find jobs. There’s nowhere to enrol the kids at school. The nearest bank, library or supermarket is nearly an hour’s drive away.

Affordable internet access could change all that, says Tama, who lives in a lush yet remote river valley.

Think about it: our mokos could learn online. Their parents could run online businesses. So many of today’s services are done online. It would be the ultimate game changer.

Right now, however, it costs too much to connect to the internet. High-speed fibre hasn’t arrived yet. Satellite services are too pricey. Technicians cost twice as much to visit.

What would I wish for if I could? I’d love it if access to the internet was free, to be honest. I’d love it if it was considered as vital as the air we breathe.

Mira’s story: Tech for good in the classroom

Mira (not her real name) and her team have spent nearly 8 years collating stories from kaumātua and publishing them online as digital education resources.

Why do it? For the next generation, of course. Our vision is to collate our hapū histories and turn them into resources for our teachers.

Mira is one of a small team who has travelled to remote parts of her region to interview approximately 80 kaumātua aged between 50 and 90 about their lives and to create an online education portal especially for local schools.

To date, the portal includes information about whakapapa, important dates and events in the hapū’s history and significant local sites. It even features a walk-through wharepuni that was designed using virtual reality.

Our goal isn’t to digitise our stories, per se, although that’s what we’re doing. It’s really about using today’s technology to make classroom learning culturally and personally relevant to the next generation.

Nikau’s story: Small-town gamer dreams big

Nikau (not his real name) vividly remembers the day that high-speed internet came to his small coastal town.

I raced home when I found out and begged mum and dad to get internet access. It was a big deal for most kids in my town.

Nikau says the fibre roll-out of ultra-fast broadband changed his world overnight. He got into online gaming in a big way and started spending more time fixing computers and using technology.

Today, he works at a local IT firm and says he’d like to become a New Zealand-based game developer or software programmer.

Do I think having access to the internet is important for people living in small towns? Absolutely. I thought I’d have to move away to get a job. I’m still planning on working for a big overseas tech business, but from right here in my home town.

Eta’s story: Lessons in the power of e-commerce

An iwi food entrepreneur reckons that COVID-19 taught her a valuable lesson in the power of e-commerce.

For 2 decades, Eta (not her real name) sold high-end food products to consumers from a traditional “bricks and mortar” store.

Her small-to-medium enterprise was doing well until the global pandemic hit in early 2020.

It was scary. My business supports several whānau. I didn’t want it to fail. Pretty quickly my team and I decided to take the business online.

Eta and her team enrolled in online e-commerce training to better understand how to use their website and online store.

They attended free Zoom hui (training) on how to market and sell food products using social media.

Today, the business is back-on-track, thanks to a more diverse customer base who are keen to buy Eta’s products online.

“That’s probably the one thing we can thank COVID for,” says Eta. “It’s helped us learn new skills and make the much-needed switch to e-commerce.”


In total, 51 people took part in the research interviews, including 37 individuals, ranging in age, iwi representation, gender, and location, and representatives from 6 organisations, including Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi in South Taranaki and the iwi Trust, Tātau Tātau o Te Wairoa on the East Coast.


The selection of interviewees was generally carried out through existing relationships formed between the Digital Inclusion programme members and various Māori stakeholders. Participants were invited to take part in the research in 2 ways – either directly or through representative organisations.

Data collection

Data was collected in a range of ways, including face-to-face, by phone or by video call. Interviews took from roughly 30 to 60 minutes.

Interviewers sought to understand iwi and community aspirations for the digital world, as well as to canvas people’s perceptions and lived experience of the digital world. Questions explored what interviewees wanted from the digital world, as well as what they liked, didn’t like and the barriers they faced when accessing digital services.

Data analysis

All interviews were transcribed into summary notes with data categorised and themed using a cluster analysis approach.


COVID-19 impacted on the research team’s ability to travel and meet individuals in person, limiting face-to-face interviews. It also limited access to people who were not able to use video conference tools, email or telephone.


Individual participants in this research represented a range of ages, rural and urban locations, abilities, and gender.


  • 11 people aged 65+
  • 8 people aged 40–65
  • 5 people aged 25–40
  • 9 people aged 18–25
  • 3 people under the age of 18
  • 1 person did not state their age

Iwi representation

All interviewees who took part in this report identified as Māori and represented a wide range of iwi.

Rural or urban

  • 17 people identified as living in an urban area
  • 15 people identified as living in a rural area
  • 4 people identified as living in a rural-urban area
  • 1 person did not state where they lived


  • 8 people identified as having a disability


  • 21 people identified as female
  • 14 people identified as male
  • 1 person identified as non-gender binary
  • 1 person preferred not to answer

Insights from organisations that represent Māori

Insights from the organisations that represent Māori covered a variety of themes.

Authentic power sharing between Māori and government is the answer

Interviewees said that authentic power sharing between Māori and government is needed to prioritise affordable connectivity for Māori communities.

Many organisational leaders believed that strong government leadership on digital inclusion would only be achieved by partnering with iwi and putting Māori needs at the centre of any government solutions.

Digital inclusion needs to be culturally bound. If we’re talking about Māori, then Māori need to be involved at all levels of digital inclusion. They need to be part of the design process as users, they need to be designers, they need to be decision makers sitting at the top table. That’s what’s needed if government is to truly support te ao Māori and want to see Māori digitally included. Nothing less than that. Nothing.

Organisational leader

Call for strong government leadership

Many organisational leaders said that the one thing that would have the biggest, most positive impact on the digital inclusion of Māori, is strong government leadership.

It sounds basic, but strong leadership on digital inclusion across government is the thing that would make the biggest difference. They just need to get it. To really achieve system change, it needs to be led from the top down.

Organisational leader

Organisational leaders interviewed for this report were particularly interested in a single agency or specific role taking responsibility for digital inclusion across the government sector and within New Zealand more broadly.

They also wanted the lead agency to help government organisations work together to achieve shared goals (rather than leave them to carry out ad-hoc initiatives) and to develop a well-thought-out strategy for tackling digital exclusion across government.

Some people have asked me: what is the Government Chief Digital Officer’s role in fixing digital exclusion? But, you tell me, what’s the answer to that?

Organisational leader

We need to know what the ‘exclusion issues’ are and then create some means to identify who (as in which agency) is responsible for solving them. It might be the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment if it’s telecommunications infrastructure. Or, if it’s digital skills we’re looking at, then we’re probably looking at a lot of overlap between agencies. The problem is, we don’t have a game plan and [we have] very little capacity to solve the issues.

Organisational leader

Digital inclusion needs to be seen as an equity issue

Some Māori leaders strongly felt that government organisations need to realise that digital exclusion is a complex equity issue, requiring a multi-pronged solution that also addresses other issues, such as poverty and poor-quality housing.

Many of our families live in caravans, tents, in the cow shed or in run-down homes where the only habitable room in the house is the back room. Is the internet a priority or even affordable for these families? Well, I think you can probably answer that.

Organisational leader

We heard the word inequality so many times during COVID. It needs to be addressed for our people. Our people suffer all the time.

Organisational leader

If any families need better access to government services, it’s those found in our region. They’re on the wrong side of all the worst statistics when it comes to health, mental health, education, ... you name it.

Organisational leader

Limited cultural competence among public servant leadership is a barrier

On the theme of partnerships, some organisational leaders voiced concerns that many in government lacked the cultural competence required to partner effectively with Māori to identify and solve the issues.

Cultural competence, they explained, involved everything from a basic understanding of New Zealand’s history to understanding the Crown’s role in that shared history and to understanding the basics of interacting with Māori in a formal setting.

It’s the balance between the Crown’s requirement to govern and Māori tino rangatiratanga that’s hard to achieve. We can’t lose sight of this even when it comes to digital inclusion. It’s a partnership. We need to be careful and thoughtful about what this means in practice. Right now, I’d say there are fewer than 5 percent of senior leaders within the public service who would really understand how to effectively work with Māori. There’s a massive amount of work to do.

Organisational leader

I think it’s important to realise the context of digital inclusion for our Māori communities. It hasn’t come out of nowhere. There is a context here. It’s important Crown agencies like the Department of Internal Affairs understand this and do what they need to do to connect on a genuine partnership basis with tangata whenua.

Organisational leader

It comes down to the need for high-quality engagement [between Māori leadership and government]. It’s a challenge. Government people need the ability to engage in a culturally competent and confident way. There’s a massive call for government people to lift their awareness, capability and ability to do that.

Organisational leader

Māori need to be involved in government decisions affecting Māori

Leaders also spoke of the need for Māori to be involved in government decisions affecting their communities. Some referred to recent examples where this had not occurred and the waste, errors and erosion of trust that resulted.

During lockdown, the cultural needs of iwi were completely overlooked by government, even though our iwi leaders wrote to government. But none of our advice was taken into consideration. No response was given to our mahi.

Organisational leader

The recent Census work carried out by government is another good example of what happens when government agencies don’t adequately consider the level of digital access in Māori communities.

Stats NZ decided to save money by digitising the process and, by doing so, opted out of employing a 2,000-strong workforce to carry out the Census through manual surveys. Yes, it was cheaper to run. But they missed out on a lot of people, particularly Māori, and others, too, who did not have the digital skills, access or capability.

As a result, government couldn’t gather the data and use some of the key statistics we need to make decisions, develop policy and design services.

Organisational leader

The digital world provides iwi a way to solve problems, innovate and do business

Some organisational leaders believed that the online world was providing a way for Māori to liberate themselves from Western and colonial ways of thinking and doing things, and they saw this as a key benefit for Māori.

The digital medium is about having a tool that can unleash us to the world in a way that no other medium has been able to do. This is the medium, I believe, that we need to break through and counter the disadvantage that Māori communities face.

Organisational leader

Digital enables Māori to dilute racism in the systems around us. We get to talk directly to our customers – it’s just us and them. There’s no one else in the way. We can dispense with all the usual barriers in the digital world. It’s a really empowering tool. It can cut across racism, I believe.

Organisational leader

Other leaders, speaking on this theme, emphasised the potential for Māori communities to take their products and services to a global audience and sell directly to consumers.

Whether you like it or not, technology is disrupting all sectors. And there are pros and cons of this disruption. When it comes to disrupting the traditional therapy model, we’re choosing to see the opportunities that technology is offering us.

We recognise the Western approach to therapy isn’t suited to many of the people who most need it – so we’ve developed a different approach using an indigenous idea of therapy combined with digital innovation.

Organisational leader

Prioritise affordable connectivity for Māori

While many organisational leaders agreed that the issues related to digital exclusion were many and varied, some believed that government could make good inroads into bridging the digital divide by prioritising affordable connectivity – particularly in low-income, rural communities.

Affordable connectivity would increase the ability of our people to do things online, especially if the connection was consistent, not patchy. A lot of the infrastructure in rural areas is very old – as old as the hills.

Organisational leader

Our rangatahi are all digital. If it were up to me, I’d give rangatahi complete freedom to grow and learn in the digital world. To me, that’s the way to give our kids a way to design a culturally-inclusive future.

Organisational leader

Young people want marae connectivity. They want to participate and be connected. Not all our marae are connected. At one, we use a portable wifi device from home.

Organisational leader

I’d like our iwi to be better hooked up to the internet. But maybe it’s about having the right commercial partnerships with Spark or Vodafone. I’d like to see all households connected, with devices, engaging online.

Organisational leader

COVID-19 exposed the realities of digital exclusion

Organisational leaders also talked about the impact COVID-19 has had on the country’s digital divide. Most starkly, it exposed the extent of the digital divide for Māori.

For some whānau who are without access to the internet or who do not have the skills to go online, the impact meant they missed out on crucial information, lost access to government services and were isolated from their communities.

Those who didn’t have internet access at home had nothing because all the public services were shut down too.

Organisational leader

Some people weren’t able to access food or help services because they simply couldn’t see what support was on offer. It was all online.

Organisational leader

During lockdown, we heard examples of government systems not working well for Māori communities. For people relying on government services such as the wage subsidy, there were difficulties accessing that help online. Maybe they rang the government instead, finding in some cases they had to wait on the phone for days. We know a lot of businesses really struggled through lockdown.

Organisational leader

COVID-19 provided new online opportunities for Māori

Organisational leaders were also quick to reflect on some of the positive gains offered by technology during lockdown. Some representatives, for example, saw first-hand how the digital world offered iwi members better access to one another and to services such as online te reo Māori language classes.

Our iwi offers te reo Māori lessons. Pre-COVID, we had very low numbers, but during COVID our numbers really picked up, especially among whānau living overseas. We’ve still got a high level of attendance going now.

Organisational leader

We set up a daily karakia on Zoom, but we’d use it to also talk about iwi business and to connect with one another in a social way. We even got into conversations about whakapapa.

Organisational leader

During lockdown, we developed a document for our iwi that expressed the importance of keeping our tino rangatiratanga intact during a crisis like a global pandemic. We spelt out our views on how to operate as a people and as a region and documented how we would carry out tangihanga, including the tools we’d use to connect people. For example, how we’d use drones and whose skills we’d draw on to do that. The lesson to take from this is that Māori people are resilient with a huge capacity to innovate.

Organisational leader

The wellbeing of Māori should be at the forefront of digital inclusion

Maintaining or enhancing the wellbeing of Māori online was a priority for some organisational leaders. Some talked about the need for government to do more to protect the mental health of Māori online. Others recommended using Dr Mason Durie’s model, Te Whare Tapa Whā, to guide the government’s digital inclusion policy and service design work.

I’d like to see government using respected Māori models in the digital area. For example, Dr Mason Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā, which would work well with the 4 elements of digital inclusion and help government think more holistically about the mental wellbeing of the digital world.

Organisational leader

Any [digital inclusion] activity that’s going to be funded by government needs to emphasise safety.

Organisational leader

Any technology-driven programmes should show, using evidence, the impact on people’s wellbeing. Leadership needs to come from government.

Organisational leader

There is a risk in taking government services online

Some organisational representatives also felt that the government’s push to digitise services needed more thinking through to avoid the unintended consequence of further marginalising people.

Some believed that government was right to want to achieve efficiencies by taking services online, but felt that government needed to aim for a better balance between cost savings and meeting the needs of people in the community for whom face-to-face services were vital.

Getting rid of hundreds of frontline staff may make some efficiencies, but really what’s happening? Does government actually have a plan to support those who will never be digital?

Organisational leader

Other organisational leaders warned generally of the risk of taking government services online for people such as kaumātua.

The risk of taking government services online is that these already marginalised communities, where the need is highest, are marginalised further.

Organisational leader

Digital inclusion is a topic of interest among iwi leaders. So much of government and life is moving online. It’s a risk for iwi, because so many of their people can’t engage.

Organisational leader

Importance of kanohi-ki-te-kanohi services

Some leaders said that many Māori preferred kanohi-ki-te-kanohi contact and this should be recognised and respected by any government organisation with a genuine interest in meeting the needs of Māori.

By providing kanohi-ki-te-kanohi services, they said, government organisations would show that they too valued relationships and respected the Māori belief that kanohi-ki-te-kanohi relationships were important.

Māori traditionally communicated face-to-face, so what happens when everything becomes digital? This is one of the biggest conversations that needs to happen within te ao Māori itself.

Organisational leader

During lockdown, a lot of people wanted to speak to someone who could answer all their [government and pandemic-related] questions and be able to tell them stuff they did not know about, such as energy payments or the accommodation supplement. We found quite a few were able to go online and look for the answers, but instead preferred to speak to someone who they thought would have all the answers (not realising that agency information often exists in silos) ...

Organisational leader

From my experience, many Māori want a kanohi-ki-te-kanohi approach from government. It can be hugely frustrating when they get a website.

Organisational leader

It can be difficult to protect intellectual property online

Leaders agreed that improving the digital inclusion of Māori was necessary and had many benefits overall. However, some expressed concerns about the inappropriate sharing and reuse of Māori content that occurred online.

The online world can change the narrative, particularly if it isn’t fact-checked. That’s the danger. That’s the kind of conversation we’re not having enough of in te ao Māori.

Organisational leader

It was interesting when we decided we wanted to publish our cultural histories online. To maintain our relationship with hapū, we had to sit down and talk them through it. We had to take the time to discuss issues such as trusting us to put their personal information online. Would it be safe? How would it be shared?

Organisational leader

Some leaders wanted more discussion about the impact of taking Māori culture online, agreeing that the issue of protecting intellectual property was best addressed by iwi.

What’s the tikanga [for] taking our culture online? What are the kawa and the rules that help Māori be Māori online when so much of Māori culture is oral and face-to-face?

Organisational leader

We learned by taking tangihanga online during lockdown that the process and tikanga may have to change. Has there been digital disruption to some of our traditions? Yes, I think so. People may wonder why we need to have 3-day tangi in the future, if you don’t need to be there in person. But then there’s the cost of that change. You might lose the personal connection, the whānaungatanga and the very essence of being Māori.

Organisational leader

Iwi are concerned about data security, but see potential in cloud-based storage

When it came to the top concerns of organisational leaders, data security and data storage were high on the list. Some leaders were concerned about a loss of control of iwi data stored overseas and wanted more control over how and where data was stored. Others worried about data loss due to hacking or poor cybersecurity. Others simply wanted to know more about the opportunities and pitfalls and to have the knowledge and skills to make their own decisions about how and where to store iwi data.

As an organisation, we are definitely thinking about iwi data stored in the cloud. Security is the first priority, but I see a lot of opportunity for iwi data to be stored [in] the cloud and for greater interoperability.

Organisational leader

Rural communities will not feel safe about their data being stored overseas. It’s a hard one because you get people who put their details online and others who won't because of where that data might be stored.

Organisational leader

[As an iwi] we’re not familiar enough with the data-storage and sovereignty issues with cloud-based systems. We should know more.

Organisational leader

Marae connectivity has potential, but there are barriers

Organisational leaders reflecting on the government’s Marae Digital Connectivity project were largely positive, contributing useful ideas and insights into how the government might overcome any barriers to the project’s success.

To have our marae connected to the internet using Provincial Growth Funding is a real opportunity. It’s exciting. Between 50 to 70 marae will receive the hardware, equipment and training to connect to the internet and use tools like Zoom.

Organisational leader

The marae connectivity project is definitely engaging Māori in tech conversations. Marae trustees are talking through important issues like what rules do we need in place? How do we want to use this resource? What behaviours do we want to manage? Do we want to keep wifi on 24-7? Do we want to password protect access? Our marae communities ultimately need to make the decisions about all of this. They hold the mana.

Organisational leader

Some leaders believed that the marae connectivity project could be improved by supporting marae communities to plan for the ongoing costs of connectivity when government funding runs out. They also recommended government add a helpdesk service to the project design.

The marae connectivity fund has potential. It might be a good thing. But marae are concerned around the ongoing fees once the government money runs out.

Organisational leader

Probably the only downside of this initiative from government is that it needs to be supported by access to a helpdesk for say 6 months. There also needs to be a process for marae communities to pass on their new tech skills and knowledge to others in their marae community. Succession planning is what I’m talking about. Financing internet connectivity, upgrading equipment, etcetera. All these things need to be factored into marae planning.

Organisational leader

Insights from iwi, hapū and whānau Māori

Insights from these Māori interviewees were roughly grouped across the themes of motivation, access, skills and trust.

Motivation insights

Culture can be a primary motivator for going online

When discussing what motivated interviewees to go online, many said that access to whānau, friends and their culture became even more pronounced during the COVID-19 lockdown.

During lockdown, our community experienced the passing away of loved ones (one of my aunties, in my case). No one could go to tangi, so some tangi were live-streamed, using digital tools, which was incredible. But there were concerns about maintaining protocols and how to do that respectfully and safely.


When lockdown came, we wrote a paper on how funerals and tangihanga should be led, which we shared with officials at Health. We got all the knowledge-keepers within marae involved. Over 3 to 4 days, we put a plan together, with each marae given a copy.


Suddenly we started talking about online tangi as an iwi. We started talking about how to bring practice and protocol online and how to do our best to honour the deceased. We did it. A hundred people attended on Zoom.


Other interviewees spoke more generally about wanting to access or share Māori culture online.

I’d love to interact more with Māori content online. There’s not much of it, to be honest. It’s definitely relevant to me. I’d like to learn more about my culture. Maybe the best way to experience that for someone like me is through a mix of gaming and educational content.


There is growing awareness of how digital tech can keep people connected to their iwi without coming home or having to physically return.


Initially, we wanted to capture our own history as stories to leave behind for our mokopuna. That’s how our online project started. Over time we have interviewed 60 to 80 kaumātua. We wanted to know what happened in their lifetimes, at their marae, learn the sites of cultural significance to them.


Māori prefer kanohi-ki-te-kanohi contact

Some interviewees said that they had no motivation to join the online world. They did not like or were put off by digital tools, such as customer service chatbots, and preferred to speak to real people. Some got impatient with technology or felt that it dominated too much of their time.

Having to interact with chatbots online just puts you off. If I want to talk to someone, then give me someone to talk to.


I get impatient and frustrated learning new things on the iPad. I’d prefer to go with the radio, to be honest. I’m familiar with that.


I used to have Facebook, Snapchat and all that on my phone. But I got rid of them all. I got sick and bored of it. I realised I was spending all this time on it, so I decided to delete these apps. Do I miss it? Nope.


Other interviewees were put off going online because they believed that it had the potential to destroy important cultural traditions.

To me, iwi issues need to be addressed and discussed in person. Why on earth would you replace in-person meetings?


I worry we will end up with a lazy generation – we need to watch this space because we’re Māori and have the powhiri process and don’t know how to do that face-to-face. We will lose our traditions, our whaikorero, our karanga.


I tell my kids that if there’s something important that needs to be conveyed to someone, rather than doing it through text, it’s best to go and have a face-to-face discussion, because the risks of incorrect interpretation could ruin relationships. As our old folks say, “kanohi-ki-te-kanohi” is the best way.


Access insights

The online world is improving access to Māori products and services

One of the most positive insights to come from Māori interviewees was the extent to which they felt that the digital world provided access to their culture, as well as a range of new Māori-driven products and services.

The good thing about digital is that it connects us on another plane, it brings us together. It allows us to share things across the world instantly.


Some interviewees were excited by the opportunities offered by the online world and could see how they could make the most of them.

How do we collate our iwi stories and secure them for the next generation? How do we pass them on? Digital tools and ways of recording are definitely on our minds.


We’d like to use technology to better collate the whakapapa details of our tamariki and rangatahi, and the adult population too. It would be great to have better data.


Others, including a Māori hauora and health start-up firm, had already begun developing new online products and services.

From the research we’ve done, we know there are a lot of untrusted services out there; services that have biases. We offer a much more accessible range of services; services that have a holistic view of hauora and health. We’re advocates for holistic health and wellbeing mixed with innovation.


Finding a balance between the online and real-life world is important

Yet some interviewees also strongly felt that Māori communities still need to have the ability to decide how to balance access to culture through the online world with experiencing it in person.

The ability for each of our marae to become an internet hub would be a major game changer. By the same token, I think some in our community would also like the authority to turn it off and have some control over its availability.


I like the idea of having more Māori culture online, but it still doesn’t have the same impact as going to a marae and sitting down next to a kuia and having them tell you the stories first hand.


We want the choice of holding events in a way that would not be disturbed by technology. Back in the old days, the old people would wānanga at 3am in the morning ... that’s still important to us as an iwi.


Affordability of internet access is an issue for low-income and rural communities

The cost of internet connectivity was a significant issue for kaumātua, whānau living in isolated, rural areas and families from a low-socio economic background with school children at home.

Cost is definitely a big thing in rural areas. The cost was diabolical on satellite, my bill was getting up to $600 a month and then, when the grandkids came, I had to turn it off.


I pay $23 a month for ... I don’t know what I pay for. I once got a letter from a broadband company. They were offering me a plan costing $75 a month?! I said, no way. I can’t afford that.


We used to have access to a satellite service, which was too expensive. But now we have access to the internet through the local school, which has a booster, I think. About a third of our community would access fast internet speeds through the school. A third, like us, would access some but it’s slow. Another third would live too far away to get any internet, so go without.


Interviewees also said that it would make a huge difference to them if internet access was more affordable, ideally free.

We’re on the pension. Our money can’t go on an unlimited access plan. Make it cheaper and then you’ll make it more accessible for us.


Affordability of devices and technology is also an issue

While interviewees said that they used a wide range of technology and devices, from smartphones to laptops to iPads to gaming devices, many interviewees found technology too expensive overall and were concerned at the cost of continuously having to upgrade devices.

A very big thing in the digital world is ‘obsolesce[nce]’, where you buy something one year and the very next year it becomes obsolete and you need to upgrade to a newer one.


It’s hard to keep up with the cost of technology.


Other cost barriers are the time and energy you have to spend learning the new technologies. Lives are busy enough nowadays. We never seem to have enough time to learn new things.


Some also said that community initiatives such as upgrading pre-used laptops and distributing them among school children had worked well to overcome cost barriers.

One year [I] used money from fundraising to buy preloved laptops. It was cheaper than buying new ones. But it was still a lot of money for a little school. They trained the principal’s husband to use the laptops and that’s how everyone learned to use them.


Skills insights

Digital skills can be taught through culture and language

When it came to learning how to engage online, some interviewees (often with the least skills) said that they had begun to pick up skills through trial and error and sometimes because of a deeper cultural interest.

I’m learning new skills because of my passion for the return of our land. I’m looking for mana motuhake. With this technology and access to online records, I can do that.


My marae do Zoom meetings, especially for AGM meetings – it’s engaging people with the technology while getting marae business at the same time.


What successful digital skills training should look like

Interviewees had a range of ideas about the kind of digital skills training that might work for Māori. Some had ideas about who it needed to target. Others spoke about the costs and implementation of skills training.

Training for iwi needs to be properly resourced and rolled out to the hapū and whānau who need it.


It needs to be free through public libraries or whatever. It needs to cover all the basics and go all the way up to the advanced levels. And definitely online banking for our older people.


We need all-iwi skills training, but it needs to be sustainable. So, why not teach one core group within the iwi, who can then teach others?


Importance of tailoring digital skills training to suit a range of needs

While most interviewees agreed that digital skills training was important, particularly as a way to improve digital inclusion, not everyone had found learning easy or used the same method to upskill.

Learning something new can be frustrating. It can take a long time if you’re doing it without support, by yourself.


When I get new technology, I probably don’t know half as much about using it as I need to. I pretty much Google it until I understand what’s what.


Last year, we moved to a document management system ... and each paepae member (member of a group of speakers in a marae) received their own tablet with their own email address loaded to the tablet. Some members who are familiar with using tablets are good with it. Others couldn’t turn on their tablets, gave up and didn’t really want to use it.


Some interviewees much preferred to learn from someone in a face-to-face setting.

I’m a confident user of internet banking, but that came only after considerable help from a bank employee sitting with me and going through the app, showing me. The thing is, I forget my password constantly.


I worry I will break something or do something wrong. That’s why I rely on my friends to show me new things and teach me new skills.


I didn’t know what to do or where to go for help. I was about to bring out a chisel and crack it [my computer] open, but then a friend came around and helped me.


Each of my kids have bought me devices – they’re all set up, but I don’t know where to start. I even need help with the TV.


Importance of digital skills for learning

Interviewees saw first-hand the importance of digital skills training for all age groups, but particularly for children and young people. They said that children and young people need digital skills to learn and do well at school, but they also need to know how to behave and stay safe online.

My moko who are home-schooled with internet at home and access to their teachers online are like sponges, learning about their world through the internet. They’re building their skills without having to really think about it. It’s incredible. You have to see it to believe it.


How do we ensure that kids learn mana-enhancing behaviour as they start to navigate this new digital world? This should be central to any connectivity programme.


I think our young people need to learn about online safety. They know a lot but not enough about that.


However, some interviewees felt that their tamariki and rangatahi were missing out on the ability to learn good digital skills training because of poor internet access.

There’s a lot of engagement that teachers can foster online – through face-to-face engagement online. But not all our home-schooled kids here in our small community have families who can afford the internet or online access. But learning online in this way is so powerful for our home-schooled kids.


Access to skilled teachers within the school system is a concern for some

A concern about the lack of digital skills among teachers within the school system was voiced by some interviewees.

Teach our teachers! I was surprised how many of our teaching staff needed tech help during lockdown. Some were quite literally illiterate. They were so used to working face-to-face.


Sometimes teachers are hesitant about introducing technology into the classroom because they don’t know enough or don’t have the skills.


In fact, one interviewee with a career in IT said that he learned very little from his teachers at school.

I didn’t really get any of my skills from school, to be honest. We only had one IT teacher in my small town. I did learn a bit of coding. I got my digital apprenticeship through a local initiative to get more kids like me online. I really appreciate the opportunity and I really want to keep on learning.


Importance of digital skills in the workplace

Again, interviewees were quick to see the merits of learning digital skills for employment and to improve business opportunities. Some learned skills on the job or were self-taught. Others sought training from other organisations. They all agreed that the better someone’s digital skills were, the more opportunity he or she tended to enjoy at work.

I went from gaming to actually building or rebuilding my own computer. Now I work in IT.


Building up our skills has been a huge learning curve for us as a business. We made a decision in the early lockdown period to embrace e-commerce and to try and scale up our website, online shop and Facebook. We’ve put a lot of time into doing that over the last 6 months and we’ll continue down that path because so much business is being done online.


We’ve self-trained and we’ve accessed learning by distance using Zoom. In fact, we’ve done it all online. In the past, we couldn’t afford the time, travel and so on. But over lockdown we signed up for free twice-weekly training on e-commerce, basically. All of a sudden, the world opened up to us in a remote, rural area like ours. Have we seen more online business as a result of our new online skills? Yes, definitely. It’s doubled.


There’s so much to learn. We can see there's a huge world we need to develop in. I’d say we’re on the first poutama, the first step. It’s a big investment for us. We’re not seeing the return on investment yet. But if we don’t do it, we know we’ll get totally left behind.


Some interviewees also reflected on the importance of learning basics skills related to social media and use of personal email for employment and work.

Social media is a big part of trying to get noticed and trying to get that big contract. If you create online content and promote it with social media, you can make a lot of connections while living in small places. With social media, you can continue to stay in your [small] home town and get employed for something you love.


We set up our employees with their own email on Gmail, because we wanted them to realise their personal emails and personal account shouldn’t be used for business. It was actually a way to protect them, though I don’t know if they realised what was happening.


There can be a stigma attached to being online

Younger-aged interviewees shared some valuable insights into the stigma of being online, particularly coming from the older generation.

If the work you’re doing isn’t outside, then it isn’t considered hard work; it isn’t considered a ‘real’ job.


I think as Māori we need to know that you don't lose your strength or mana by going online.


The older generation say, ‘We’ve done things this way so there’s no need to change it’. But the younger generation say, ‘It’s time to change,’ but don’t want to be rude about it.


Many kaumātua rely on the younger generation to teach them digital skills

Younger people teaching the older generation to go online, use apps and navigate the internet was a key theme among interviewees. Some kaumātua relied on their moko to understand the online world. Others wanted to better access their relationship with their grandchildren using technology.

A great teacher for me are my mokopuna. Once the kids have had enough of tech, they come and tells us nannies and papas.


A lot of the old people need help getting online. That’s what I do in my job. We help the community with their computer worries.


Many kaumātua interviewed for this report talked about learning from their much-loved grandchildren, saying it was motivating them to learn more.

I can see a future in digitally connecting to whānau because all of my children and grandchildren live away from me. And for me, in my heart, I want to have that connection even though I can’t be there physically.


At the same time, many among the younger, more tech-savvy generation acknowledged the difficulties in shouldering the responsibility of upskilling kaumātua. They acknowledged the time it took and the resources needed to do it well. For some, it required a lot of patience.

We just had to be patient with our aunties and uncles as they adapted to the new technologies during lockdown. There’s one auntie on the marae board who lives rurally – she’s about 10 kilometres away from the nearest shop and another 25 kilometres away from our main town. And she’s the one who’s needed the most support.


Trust insights

There is uncertainty about new technologies such as 5G

When it came to understanding new technologies, such as 5G, some interviewees were not sure what to believe or what information to trust.

We need factual information about new technologies like 5G that address our concerns. We need it from a credible source.


Several interviewees expressed false theories on new technologies.

During lockdown, three 5G towers were put in our area. I don’t know enough about it, but I know some people who are really concerned about the health effects.


There should be data on it. People should have a choice about what they want to use, be it 3G, 4G or 5G. I mean, if you don’t mind being cooked inside from 5G, then by all means go on and pick up your wifi from over there.


Paywave: I don’t trust it. Am I getting charged just by being near it?


Other interviewees wanted more opportunity to question technology or to have their questions about technology answered by a credible and trusted source.

Do I need 5G or any other technology to watch TV, because I can watch it now can’t I? The 5G – there are too many unknowns about its impact on wellbeing. It boils down to being asked. We haven’t been asked or consulted to find out if we want to be exposed to the technology.


The reality is that iwi are concerned about many things tech related, whether it’s 5G or any G for that matter.


Some feel concerned about doing the wrong thing online

Doing the wrong thing online was a serious concern for some interviewees. By clicking on the wrong button or searching on the wrong topic, they worried they’d lose money or end up being scammed.

If I have to do something on the internet that requires my bank details, I’ll contact my bank first to make sure everything is on the up and up.


I worry I might push the wrong button and then have saddled myself with an expensive mistake I can’t afford.


Some voiced concerns about the way search engines and websites used personal information to promote online content and services.

The way algorithms are programmed to influence your choices online is concerning, especially after watching ‘The Great Hack’ on Netflix.


Parents and grandparents are trying different ways to keep kids safe online

Many parents and grandparents talked about the challenges of not growing up with technology or using technology proficiently and yet still being responsible for keeping their children and mokopuna safe online.

Even in an isolated place like where we live, cyberbullying is extremely destructive. I’ve seen its impact on mental health and suicide. We lost a young girl here and cyberbullying was a factor.


Because kids take up digital tools so rapidly, parents can’t be their teachers anymore. We’re even hearing of teachers saying: ‘I’m the learner here ...’.


Some interviewees understood some of the tools that are available to parents.

I’ve set up a parental lock on my kid’s iPads and their YouTube accounts.


Other interviewees felt that more needs to be done to teach cybersafety.

I believe we need to teach our young people everything about staying safe online. Technology can be addictive. You can get consumed by it. Next thing you know, the young person has jumped off the bridge.


I can’t really rely on my parents if I get into trouble online. I’d probably go to my peers, or Google or somewhere else.


There is a growing awareness of internet safety among young people

However, interviewees also reported a growing awareness of internet safety. Rangatahi, in particular, were learning more about how to protect their online identity and themselves from scams or overexposure to the internet.

I know a lot about how to stay safe and undetected online when it comes to platforms that are monitoring browsing habits, and about keeping personal identifiers off the internet. It’s not that I don’t like being online, it’s more about having an online profile without my name and personal details visible.


I had a big realisation about social media usage in my early teenage years. It was around self-image and self-worth and how both were tied to my social media following and content. I even had a fall out with friends over social media. That’s when I realised how lost I felt and how much social media was impacting my life.


Others believed that older people, too, were learning more about the risks of going online.

My parents had rules for using technology when I was growing up (until I was 13). I could use technology from Thursday to Sunday. I liked the rule. It was nice to be unplugged.


Kaumātua are thought to be the most susceptible to online scams

Overall, interviewees believed that kaumātua were probably the most susceptible of all age groups to online scams.

My moko was playing an online game and I took over. Next morning, I woke up and there was some photo of a young girl there. It was a virus. It was a person using my moko’s name.


I don’t trust the computer, I hear too many scam stories. People my age still put their money under the mattress.


Older people, especially, are frightened of new technology.


Addiction and cyberbullying are thought to be the worst aspects of the internet

When it came to talking about online addiction and issues such as cyberbullying, many interviewees voiced concerns based on what they were seeing and experiencing around them.

Of course, I worry about my children and over use of digital technology – I think there’s [such] a thing as being too connected. It’s just constant.


I feel like she’s being brought up by her phone. I find it almost impossible to pull her away from it.


My concern is the next generation may become too reclusive and separate themselves, and get more comfortable with the digital world rather than the social and physical worlds.


I think everyone’s addicted to their devices, especially children. I think they’ll all become like robots in the future. They won’t be able to do manual work. They’ll all end up like zombies.



This research captures insights into the views and experiences of Māori, a group of people at risk of not being digitally included.

The research has identified 4 key findings for government and non-government organisations that need to be considered in order to improve digital inclusion for Māori.

The 4 key findings that Māori desire are:

  • more affordable access to the internet and devices
  • stronger leadership and power sharing between government and iwi
  • recognition that digital-first and online-by-default strategies are marginalising some whānau
  • more skills training provided for all ages.

The key findings highlight the range of issues Māori face when trying to engage with the digital world.

The issues reflect the recent impact of COVID-19 on Māori and remind people what’s at stake when the online world becomes the sole means of communicating, learning, accessing vital services and information, and doing business.

The Māori leaders who were interviewed for this report called for strong government leadership and genuine power sharing between government and iwi to ensure the digital world of tomorrow is both culturally and digitally inclusive.

Next steps

In 2021, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) will use sector meetings to engage with key stakeholders and non-government organisations in considering the report findings and ensuring that organisations focussing on digital inclusion in New Zealand have the report information.

The report will also be shared with Ministers and inform advice on the Government’s approach to increasing digital inclusion.

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