Report: Digital inclusion user insights — Pacific peoples
The Pacific community in New Zealand is grappling with acute digital exclusion amongst some of its people.
Nearly 1 in 12 people in New Zealand identifies as a Pacific person, more than 8 percent of the population,[Footnote 1] and this figure increases year on year.
Pacific peoples’ contribution to business, the workplace and society is integral to New Zealand’s identity and economic, cultural and social wellbeing. Yet worryingly, 1 in 5 of Pacific peoples between the ages of 16 and 65 may use some technology but have no computer experience, have not passed a simple computer-use assessment, or they decline to use a computer.[Footnote 2] For the same skill set, this is twice the rate of non-Pacific populations and is a worrying digital exclusion statistic.
Everyone should be able to participate fully in the digital world because digital technologies increasingly impact all aspects of our lives,[Footnote 3] from smartphones and online services to artificial intelligence.
Government and other organisations, such as banks and medical providers, have moved to online systems at a rapid rate, and some Pacific people are struggling to access entitlements and services on the new platforms. The Alert Level 3 and 4 lockdowns, one of the Government’s tools for managing the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, highlighted Pacific peoples’ challenges, as organisations, communities and families raced to operate online.
Furthermore, English-only online platforms present a challenge for older Pacific peoples. Approximately half of New Zealand’s Pacific peoples between the ages of 16 and 65 learned a Pacific language at home as their first language, and approximately 1 in 3 speaks a Pacific language at home as their main language.[Footnote 4]
On a positive note, Pacific church communities are a powerful communication channel, and 4 out of 5 of Pacific peoples in New Zealand are affiliated with a church community.[Footnote 5] An additional positive is that Pacific peoples come together quickly to help others. Some homegrown digital inclusion initiatives are already in place within local Pacific communities. Their success demonstrates the importance of Pacific peoples being at the heart of any government-funded digital inclusion initiatives.
This report highlights, in their own words, how New Zealand’s Pacific peoples have experienced — and continue to experience — the challenges of participating in the digital world, post lockdown.
Thank you and disclaimer
The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) extends its warmest thanks to all who generously shared their thoughts and time for this user experience (UX) research project. This includes members of the Porirua and South Auckland communities, Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation (PYLAT) Council members across New Zealand, church leaders, library staff, and Pacific staff within government and the technology and education sectors.
We would also like to note that the findings in this report reflect the views of the individuals who were interviewed and of the various groups they represent.
The cause and effect of digital exclusion and inclusion is complex and variable, reflecting each Pacific individual’s circumstances, their family’s circumstances, and their Pacific community or communities’ circumstances. This challenges government and other organisations working to develop a comprehensive and workable plan to close the digital divide.
Five key findings emerged from the qualitative data obtained during this user research. Additional detailed insights reflecting the unique cultures and lived experiences of Pacific peoples and communities are set out in the Discussion section below.
Pacific peoples’ input into the design of services is critical
Perhaps the strongest theme in the findings is that the Pacific community trusts and responds best to information coming from other Pacific peoples — “community knows community best” — and so Pacific peoples need to be involved in designing services and digital inclusion initiatives.
Interviewees said that success of initiatives depends on a high level of involvement from Pacific community members, ensuring community buy-in and support. Active Pacific community involvement is vital when designing training, services and initiatives to successfully address the digital exclusion of some Pacific people.
Cost is a barrier
Cost of devices and connectivity is a significant barrier to Pacific peoples’ digital inclusion. Many interviewees were concerned that digital exclusion in Pacific communities will increase rates of low educational achievement, low employment, low income and poor housing statistics.
Some interviewees saw digital exclusion as social disenfranchisement, stating that affordable internet access is a human right.
Non-digital access to government services is vital
Interviewees showed significant concern that government services are increasingly becoming ‘digital first’, as organisations move their services online, and that government does not appreciate the severe impact this is having on Pacific communities.
They said that Pacific communities are losing access to government support and entitlements and are becoming increasingly marginalised in society. They said they felt that during the global pandemic many Pacific people were not receiving vital information and were unable to access services, especially during Alert Level 3 and 4 lockdowns.
Pacific leaders said that the government should continue to provide non-digital information and services to the Pacific community while such a wide digital divide still exists for some people.
Digital skills training is needed
Interviewees felt that digital skills training and education would make a significant difference for Pacific communities, making everyday activities easier for them. To be successful, they advised skills training needs to be offered in a way that recognises how Pacific peoples prefer to learn.
They felt skills training would help:
- encourage people to start to use ‘daily’ services, such as online banking and shopping
- develop Pacific businesses
- provide opportunities for sustainable employment in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
- improve digital safety, ensuring fewer Pacific peoples fall victim to scams.
They want training to target all ages and to include basic digital literacy skills.
Pacific peoples are needed in technology careers
Many interviewees voiced concern that the rate of participation of Pacific peoples working in the technology sector is low. Addressing this will result in more diverse technology-based service offerings that will better meet the digital inclusion needs of Pacific peoples (and will provide higher income-earning opportunities).
Purpose of this research
The purpose of this research was to:
- better understand how Pacific peoples think and feel about digital inclusion
- canvas Pacific leaders to better understand their perspectives on digital inclusion
- gain insights into the broader digital inclusion issues of access, motivation, trust and skills
- understand what improvements could be made to ensure a more equitable digital environment for Pacific peoples.
Definitions and framework
‘Pacific peoples’ means Rotuman (less than 1% of New Zealand's Pacific peoples population) plus New Zealand’s fourth largest ethnic group,[Footnote 6] comprising 8 Pacific groups living in New Zealand: Samoan (49%), Cook Islands Māori (21%), Tongan (20%), Niuean (8%), Fijian (5%), Tokelauan (2%), Tuvaluan (1%), and Kiribati (less than 1%).
The vision for digital inclusion
The government’s 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, all of which are needed for a person to be digitally included. These 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 The Digital Inclusion Blueprint provide a framework for understanding digital inclusion in the New Zealand context and for discussing the challenges faced by different groups in New Zealand.
Research scope and method
In total, 47 people participated in the research as an individual or a representative of a Pacific organisation, including:
- church leaders
- community leaders
- members of Pacific communities
- organisations providing services to Pacific communities
- youth leaders
- LGBTTQI+/MVPFAFF communities
- public servants
- people in the technology sector
- creative practitioners.
The participants were recruited through community leaders.
Participants in this research represented a range of ages, ethnicities, locations and genders.
- 6 people aged 65+
- 18 people aged 40–65
- 10 people aged 25–40
- 10 people aged 18–25
- 1 person aged 15–18
- 2 people did not state their age
People may identify as more than one ethnicity.
- 21 people identified as Samoan
- 7 people identified as Tongan
- 3 people identified as Fijian
- 4 people identified as Cook Islands
- 4 people identified as Niuean
- 2 people identified as Tokelauan
- 1 person identified as Kiribati
- 1 person identified as Tuvaluan
- 1 person identified as Rotuman
- 6 people identified as Māori
- 3 people identified as New Zealand European
- 1 person did not state their ethnicity
- 17 people identified as living in the Auckland region
- 1 person identified as living in the Palmerston North region
- 22 people identified as living in the Wellington region
- 7 people identified as living in the Christchurch region
Rural or urban
- 41 people identified as living in an urban area
- 2 people identified as living in a rural area
- 2 people identified as living in a rural-urban area
- 2 people did not state where they lived
- 23 people identified as female
- 22 people identified as male
- 1 person identified as non-gender binary
- 1 person preferred not to answer
Data was collected from 38 face-to-face interviews, 2 written submissions and 7 fono attendees.
Interviewers sought to understand the feelings and experiences of Pacific peoples and to gather insights useful for design thinking and generating solutions.
Interviews were transcribed into summary notes, with data categorised and grouped into broad themes under the elements of Motivation, Access, Skills and Trust.
Why digital inclusion matters now more than ever
In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the digital divide worldwide. Many New Zealanders struggled to connect, communicate and access essential services. This situation continues to extend the divide for more than 1 in 5 New Zealanders, those who the data indicates are digitally excluded.
As well as highlighting New Zealand’s digital divide, Alert Level 3 and 4 lockdowns caused people, businesses and other organisations to learn quickly about digital opportunities and benefits. This impetus to increase digital awareness is an opportunity to develop a more equitable digital environment in New Zealand.
As New Zealand continues its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges for digitally excluded groups remain and are likely to become more pronounced, with social inequities worsening. It’s possible that people in the business sector who run small-to-medium enterprises may also become at risk of digital exclusion over time, as the digital world responds to the opportunities and challenges presented by the pandemic.
In its first report to Government, the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand advised that social and digital inclusion must be a priority for New Zealand decision-makers and that the country must do more to tackle digital exclusion.
3 personal stories
The NZ Rotuman Fellowship’s story: Leading the way for other Pacific community groups — with a digital leap
Before the pandemic in 2020, the New Zealand Rotuman Fellowship was planning events for the first official Rotuman Language Week (10–16 May 2020). Then the Alert Level 4 lockdown changed everything.
“At first it was deflating,” says Gabriel Penjueli, Vice Chair of the Fellowship, “but then we decided to see if we could move it all online.”
Gabriel had his doubts but said that learning together and harnessing youth leadership to move online meant that they successfully held their first Rotuman Language Week — and also found a way to keep the community connected during lockdown.
People in their late 40s and older, they have no idea, they didn’t even know what Zoom was. Even I was one of the sceptics thinking, ‘oh man, good luck’.
We did our Language Week on Zoom. It was like putting a movie together. We even had the President of Fiji do a speech and send it in. It was amazing.
Using Zoom was good for connecting Rotuman people, both in New Zealand and globally.
There are only 30,000 of us around the world. Someone from Alaska sent in a video. He was a relative — I didn’t even know he was up there!
Being forced to take a digital leap if they wanted to proceed with language week made Gabriel realise just how quickly and extensively people can connect.
Things spread a lot faster and in real time.
We have some fantastic, smart kids in our young people. I thought they’d used a high-tech computer, but they’d actually used their phones to edit all our videos and everything. So, when we got together after lockdown, they showed us what they were using, and I was like ‘Wow’, and they said ‘Yeah, we just had to make sure we kept charging our phones’.
After our language week, other island groups got in touch with us and asked for our help. They wanted to make it just as effective for them.
Note: Rotuma is a Fijian dependency located 650kms north of Fiji. Rotuman is a UNESCO-listed Endangered Language.
Iosephina’s story: “Come and show us how to use these things”
Iosephina (not her real name) is 80 years old. Like is often the case for families, Iosephina and her husband experience some family dysfunction, which compounds their experience of digital exclusion. Iosephina says that her husband has a smartphone but that they don’t know how to use it, and family members take it.
I want to be able to talk to church members, so I really need a phone. I need to be able to make doctor’s appointments and things like that.
She says that other family members have a computer, which they don’t share with her and her husband.
[She] doesn’t show us [how to use our phone], and I really want to know how to work, like, a computer or whatever, [she] uses Facebook — I don’t like Facebook, I don’t want none of those things. I want to watch sport; I love sport.
Recently Iosephina needed to call an ambulance for her husband. She managed to get his smartphone but, despite trying, lacked the skills to call the ambulance with it. Fortunately, her daughter was nearby and was able to make the call.
We need for you people to come and show us how to use all those things.
Talia’s story: Cultural advantage for Pacific peoples in technology jobs
Talia (not her real name) is open about telling people she earns a big income working in the technology industry.
Everyone thinks that people working in tech are software developers or coders and that’s quite a hard perception to shake.
I’m quite open in telling people: I don’t code, I do nothing but talk to people about tech all day and about how tech can help make things easier, and come up with processes. I want other Pacific and Māori people, particularly women, to know you don’t need to be a coder to succeed in tech.
I share my story because if you don’t share that there are other ways to get into tech jobs, people assume there’s only one path. But there are programme managers, product owners, relationship managers … roles for managing teams and processes.
Talia says Pacific peoples already have the relevant skill sets.
As tech evolves and becomes easier and more automated, it’s important to be more human. And that’s where Pacific people can thrive, because they’re natural orators, they’re natural storytellers. If you can manage a White Sunday production, and herd 30 kids and their parents — then there’s no reason why you can’t run a tech project!
Many executives go on $10,000 courses to learn how to lead teams, particularly servant leadership. Pacific people grow up where this skill is part of their cultural environment.
But they don’t see how they can monetise these skills. They don’t understand that interpersonal skills, the ability to build a team, maintain it and use humour, is what many organisations and companies are looking for.
Talia says technology is so much a part of our daily lives that our technology tools and ways of working need to reflect and meet the needs of all users — remembering that Māori and Pacific peoples make up 25 percent of the New Zealand population.
When I look at government platforms, a lot of the time they’re not geared up to serve people who do not understand government processes.
People think I’m talking affirmative action but that’s not it. I try to explain that having different perspectives at the table helps us achieve more because sharing our differences in solving problems will result in a better public service.
Also, you’ll never know what it’s like to be Māori or Pasifika if you’re not. The benefit of having diversity means bringing different experiences to how you solve a problem.
Insights from the organisations and individuals representing Pacific peoples are grouped under the 4 elements of digital inclusion: Access, Skills, Trust and Motivation. A fifth section in this report describes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Pacific peoples from a digital exclusion perspective.
Interviewees shared a range of insights into the access needs experienced by Pacific peoples.
Cost of devices and connectivity
With an average annual income that’s approximately two-thirds of the average New Zealand annual income,[Footnote 7] interviewees said that many Pacific people need government support but cannot access this support online as they cannot afford the devices and internet connections to do so.
Interviewees talked about the high cost of devices and connectivity as being a significant barrier to the Pacific community accessing the digital world. Pacific peoples are overly represented in lower income and education statistics,[Footnote 8] as well as in low employment and poor housing outcomes. As a result, they often cannot afford devices and internet connection costs.
Many interviewees talked about relying on phones and mobile data to access digital services. Others talked about having to wait until pay day to access the internet for online information and digital services.
Some voiced concerns about losing access to government support and entitlements due to the cost of keeping a device running and paying for phone data and internet connectivity.
Loss of services as they move online
Many interviewees voiced concerns about the increasing number of services that are moving online. With poor access to devices and internet connectivity, digitally excluded people struggle to engage in everyday transactions such as enrolment, online banking and applying for a job. As a result, they’re obliged to seek help from — and therefore be dependent on — others.
For older people, many of whom prefer face-to-face services, or for Pacific peoples who struggle with English as a second language, the impact is especially acute.
Sometimes, asking for help also means handing over personal information or asking someone skilled like a librarian to type up personal documents.
Some interviewees said that they felt their ability to access financial support and fill out important forms has been impacted by the digitisation of government and the steady increase of services being moved online. This has resulted in face-to-face counters closing, including for services that some Pacific people depend on. Others get frustrated by having to spend a lot of their time accessing in-person services if they don’t or can’t use online services.
Inaccessible government information and services
Overall, Pacific peoples want access to a range of community-friendly information and services from government. They want information written in plain English and in Pacific languages, wherever possible.
Many organisational leaders within government recognise this need, too, and admit it’s an ongoing challenge for many government organisations.
Awareness of — and challenges to access — free public wifi services
Free public wifi is a digital service that’s highly rated by interviewees. The services offered by schools and libraries work well for families without wifi at home. These sometimes provide children with much-needed access to the internet and to devices so that they can complete school work. Many community leaders are now pointing out free wifi areas to their communities.
Some interviewees talked about how older family members use the local library to access services.
Regardless, there are challenges for some Pacific people to access free wifi facilities.
Interviewees shared a range of insights into digital skills training that is needed and that would work well for Pacific peoples.
Training needed for Pacific businesses
Several interviewees said that more needed to be done to encourage digital skills development in the Pacific business community. They said that Pacific businesses need help understanding the benefits of using digital tools and platforms for operating their business. They also need help on how to make sure business information and data are secure when using digital tools.
Community-led training is vital
Interviewees suggested using family-oriented and church-led training.
A strength of Pacific communities is that people come together quickly to help each other. Young people help and support elderly people within their extended family.
With more than 80 percent of Pacific peoples affiliated with a church community,[Footnote 9] churches are an important communication channel for communities. Some digital inclusion initiatives have evolved successfully from within these communities and these demonstrate that success depends on Pacific peoples being part of the design of a digital inclusion initiative.
Train in people’s first language
Delivering training through a mix of in-person, radio and video mediums was another suggestion from interviewees.
Many interviewees also talked about the importance of explaining technical language and of delivering training in a face-to-face setting, including in the appropriate Pacific language.
Build people’s confidence to ask for help
Some said that basic digital skills training should give Pacific peoples confidence, help them learn independently and reduce embarrassment for all ages.
Train all age groups
Interviewees said that all ages need access to digital skills training, from young people to adults to seniors.
Some interviewees had updated their skills at work or with help from their children but wanted to know more. Other interviewees were using social media to keep in touch with family but needed skills beyond using Facebook and text messaging.
Recognising that older people have a range of specific needs is important, according to some interviewees. Older people, they said, sometimes find it hard to recognise small differences in using technology, such as the difference between using a wifi internet connection versus using mobile phone data, or that you can call landlines from a mobile phone.
Interviewees said the older generation also find it difficult to understand the benefits of internet-based, free messaging and calling apps versus pre-paid or limited minutes and text-based mobile phone accounts. The ever-changing interfaces of applications and services along with trying to use different device types or brands can also be confusing.
Train about digital safety
Many interviewees noted how there’s a knowledge gap around digital safety and that scams were becoming more sophisticated. They voiced concerns that Pacific peoples are possibly more vulnerable to scams because of a reluctance to challenge perceived authority. For example, if they’re sent emails or documents saying that they owe money, they’re potentially more compliant than people who are from other cultures.
Some also think that older Pacific peoples are more likely to trust information received from a seemingly credible or authoritative source. This is especially the case for material that appears official or coming from government. Alongside lack of digital skills and unfamiliarity with technology, that trust can make older Pacific peoples vulnerable to being scammed or hacked.
Young people also talked about their lack of knowledge around digital safety. They’re more confident around their digital safety skills than older people, however they feel they need more information on how to keep safe from lesser known digital dangers.
Provide more accessible funding for digital skills training initiatives
Several interviewees involved in digital skills training set up by Pacific communities said that the processes for accessing funds for programmes were not very user friendly. They explained that funding applications for providing digital skills training are not always successful, including applications to the Lotteries Commission. Often people find the application process too challenging, including how to articulate their request adequately, and they give up.
Interviewees shared a range of insights into trust issues experienced by Pacific peoples, and some solutions for building trust.
Trust in the online world is low
Many interviewees expressed their low trust in the online world, and fear of using technology. Older people said that they didn’t know enough to trust that they could use it ‘safely’. Many associated the online world with scams and questionable social media content, and they expressed low trust that their privacy and personal information would remain secure.
Three interviewees connected government digital transformation with an inter-generational mistrust of government that stems from the 1970s dawn raids on Pacific homes.
One young interviewee was worried about the power the older generation has to push back on digital inclusion efforts. He said that older people hold a lot of influence, so they need help to understand the benefits of the digital world. They’re getting glimpses of information about artificial intelligence and virtual reality, causing some to fear the digital world.
Trust is best achieved via their own language and family
Interviewees said that older people are more likely to trust information if they hear it in their own language and learn from younger family members.
Uncertainty about trustworthy apps, websites and services
Some Pacific people worry about websites, applications and services that require bank details because they find it hard to tell if these are genuine. Interviewees said that they’re more likely to trust requests for information for transactions if the request comes from widely known applications and services. While interviewees said that public or free wifi enables more access, some said that they do not trust the security of free wifi.
Reducing elder reliance on others may reduce elder abuse
Interviewees spoke of instances where an older person had trusted a family member to do their banking online, but money transfers had then taken place without their knowledge.
Trust in government varies
Pacific peoples think of themselves as a trusting community and generally trust the government but, if lost, that trust can be hard to regain.
However, some Pacific people mistrust government motives and their trust needs to be rebuilt if there is to be confidence in the government’s digital inclusion initiatives.
This stems in part from a view shared by several interviewees that government ‘over-engages’ with Pacific communities to gather data but gives little in return, and that what government needs to do more of is to build trust through a genuine relationship.
One interviewee said that the key for government and large organisations wanting to work with Pacific communities is to earn trust and start a meaningful discussion to progress things — and not make promises that don’t get kept.
Online racism lowers Pacific peoples’ trust
Interviewees expressed concern about widespread racism online, including prejudice and hate-speech aimed at the Pacific community. The concern is that these racist views, groups and movements flourish online with little regulation or consequence.
One community leader told of young Pacific rugby players struggling with self-esteem and social media. The attention from fans brought pressure to perform as well as racist online abuse.
Interviewees shared a range of insights into what does and doesn’t motivate Pacific peoples to use digital technology.
Connecting with family and community increases motivation to use digital technology
A strong theme from interviewees was how much Pacific life centres around family, and how technology gives families a way to stay connected and be involved even when geographically distant.
Church is frequently the link that connects Pacific families and it’s actively used to introduce change.
Social media is popular within the Pacific community
Almost every interviewee spoke of how commonly social media is now used by young and old to keep up with family, friends, community and culture, and as a source of Pacific news. It’s also used to quickly connect and bring people together for community events.
Older people spoke of how they love Facebook because it enables them to be more included in their children’s and grandchildren’s lives.
Pacific peoples are needed in technology careers
Interviewees working in technology were concerned that they’re the minority, saying that Māori and Pacific peoples comprise 25 percent of the population but that only 2 percent are working in technology.[Footnote 10] They said that increasing diversity in the technology workforce would generate better understanding of Pacific community needs and better service solutions, with the implication that this would improve digital inclusion in the Pacific community.
Interviewees working in technology said that they believe there’s a mindset about careers in technology that needs changing as it means Pacific peoples are missing out on highly paid careers and, by implication, greater digital inclusion. They said that parents and older people had a negative view of technology being just about software or gaming.
These same interviewees showed a high motivation to help change Pacific participation in technology. Many are involved in skills training programmes in their jobs or as volunteers. They said that they’re active in speaking about their work in their communities so that they can be visible role models.
Having access to devices and technology when young can make a difference to a person’s education, interests and career path, said one interviewee with a cutting-edge career in technology.
The digital world opens a door to Pacific culture
Participants talked enthusiastically about how the digital world was opening up the diverse Pacific cultures to each other and to New Zealanders in general.
Interviewees said that digital platforms are helping to connect Pacific peoples who were geographically scattered and that, for isolated people, this might be their only way to learn about their culture.
However, there were some mixed feelings. Older people, in particular, are reluctant to see cultural practices online, maintaining that customs should continue to be passed on orally, in the traditional manner, which creates an important link between generations. Younger people, however, are more positive about seeing cultural practices online as the knowledge is easier to access.
Concern about cultural appropriation and use without consent
Alongside enthusiasm about seeing their culture online, interviewees told of growing concern about what happens to cultural content once online. They said that it’s hard to define cultural appropriation in a way that enables legal action, or to track it, if cultural content online has been appropriated or used without consent.
Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Pandemic lockdowns disadvantaged digitally excluded people
There was a consistent view among interviewees that the pandemic highlighted the digital divide in New Zealand. They commented that, during the pandemic’s Alert Level 3 and 4 lockdowns in 2020, the proportion of Pacific peoples who struggled to be able to work, help their children study and access essential information and services was high compared to non-Pacific populations.
The pandemic highlighted low digital literacy
Interviewees who provided Pacific communities with support during the lockdown periods said that they saw first-hand how hard people with low digital literacy struggled to access important information.
Older people needed support with digital skills
Interviewees described the concern that they had felt for elderly people who were isolated during lockdown due to not living with family or being connected with others. With churches and community groups providing devices and training, older people got to see digital technology in action and its benefits, such as how it enabled them to be easily connected to family and church.
Working from home is difficult in large households
Interviewees described the practical problems experienced by Pacific families living in large households. Some knew of families who moved in together to save money after losing jobs. Working from home during lockdowns meant higher power bills. Furthermore, not everyone wanted to turn on their video during online meetings and show where they were living.
Churches went online — and delivered vital information
Several church ministers described how they went on a steep technology learning curve, guided mainly by young people. As well as making sure church services continued, they used the ‘church channels’ to deliver key public messages about the pandemic situation, advising people where they could get COVID-19 tests, where the food banks were and where to go for further help.
Some ministers said that they would now continue with some online services.
Many people relied on Facebook for information
Interviewees described how social media was often the easiest way to stay up to date with COVID-19 information because so many of the community were already on Facebook.
Pacific communities were vulnerable to and suffered from misinformation
Interviewees said that Pacific peoples put a lot of trust in their community leaders, but that these leaders had sometimes spread misinformation.
They also said that online racism was directed at the Pacific community after false information and rumour about a family, which had been identified as a COVID-19 community transmission cluster, was spread on social media during the Auckland lockdown.
The pandemic changed Pacific peoples’ views about the digital world
Interviewees described how the 2020 lockdowns changed people’s view of the importance of digital inclusion — from seeing people unable to access services or stay socially connected, through to appreciating what could actually be delivered online.
Pacific culture gained more visibility
Interviewees said that many cultural events, practices and meetings were conducted digitally through Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Facebook. A Samoan cultural education course, which would normally have been in person, moved online and was promoted to English-speaking Samoans who had little knowledge of their Samoan culture. It was delivered in English with Samoan translations.
The research has captured qualitative insights into the views and experiences of Pacific peoples, a group highly at risk of digital exclusion. The insights highlight the range of issues faced by Pacific peoples when they engage with the digital world.
This research has identified 5 key findings and a wealth of detailed findings for government and non-government organisations to consider in order to improve digital inclusion for Pacific peoples in New Zealand.
The 5 key findings are:
- Pacific peoples’ input into the design of services is critical
- cost is a barrier
- non-digital access to government services is vital
- digital skills training is needed
- Pacific peoples are needed in technology careers.
The research also shows the value of the strong, supportive networks that Pacific peoples have in family, church and community. Pacific peoples know and trust their own people well and this provides an opportunity that can be harnessed by government, telecommunications and other organisations. They can work with this trust to support and empower Pacific peoples to strengthen their digital skills, generating a more equitable digital environment in New Zealand.
In 2021, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) will use sector meetings to engage with key stakeholders and non-government agencies 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.