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:
- disabled people
- Pacific people
- people in social housing
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Skills: Having the know-how to use the internet and digital technology in ways that are appropriate and beneficial for each of us.
- 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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other organisational leaders warned generally of the risk of taking government services online for people such as kaumātua.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Insights from iwi, hapū and whānau Māori
Insights from these Māori interviewees were roughly grouped across the themes of motivation, access, skills and trust.
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.
Other interviewees spoke more generally about wanting to access or share Māori culture online.
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.
Other interviewees were put off going online because they believed that it had the potential to destroy important cultural traditions.
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.
Some interviewees were excited by the opportunities offered by the online world and could see how they could make the most of them.
Others, including a Māori hauora and health start-up firm, had already begun developing new online products and services.
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.
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.
Interviewees also said that it would make a huge difference to them if internet access was more affordable, ideally free.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some interviewees much preferred to learn from someone in a face-to-face setting.
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.
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.
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.
In fact, one interviewee with a career in IT said that he learned very little from his teachers at school.
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.
Some interviewees also reflected on the importance of learning basics skills related to social media and use of personal email for employment and work.
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.
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.
Many kaumātua interviewed for this report talked about learning from their much-loved grandchildren, saying it was motivating them to learn more.
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.
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.
Several interviewees expressed false theories on new technologies.
Other interviewees wanted more opportunity to question technology or to have their questions about technology answered by a credible and trusted source.
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.
Some voiced concerns about the way search engines and websites used personal information to promote online content and services.
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.
Some interviewees understood some of the tools that are available to parents.
Other interviewees felt that more needs to be done to teach cybersafety.
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.
Others believed that older people, too, were learning more about the risks of going online.
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.
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.
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.
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.