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Increasing digital inclusion for Māori people has become more urgent and more pronounced

Increasing digital inclusion has become more urgent and pronounced for Māori people, with COVID-19 exacerbating people’s ability to participate in, contribute to and benefit from the digital world, according to a new qualitative research report Digital Inclusion User Insights — Māori by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).

DIA estimates that as many as 1 in 5 New Zealanders face barriers to digital inclusion. For Māori the risk is larger. For example, Māori households were less likely to have internet access (access was 16% less likely in Māori households, compared to non-Māori households).

For the Māori people who were interviewed, affordability — the cost of access to the internet and devices — is the greatest digital inclusion barrier. Digital skills training is also an important factor for increasing digital inclusion.

In addition, a key consideration for those interviewed is that services need to be both culturally and digitally inclusive in order to support increased digital inclusion of Māori people.

These user insights and stories provide rich foundational understanding to the broad challenge of digital inclusion. They also provide key considerations for those designing services for different digital perspectives and population groups.

Dianne Patrick, Programme Lead for digital inclusion, Digital Public Service, Department of Internal Affairs

Māori people’s experiences — the findings

The research report ‘Digital Inclusion User Insights — Māori’ gives Māori people a voice and outlines their lived experience of digital inclusion.

Four key findings emerged out of the qualitative data from this user research, as follows.

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:

  • learn
  • communicate
  • access cultural information
  • work and do business
  • carry out cultural practices
  • do business on marae (communal, sacred place that serves religious and social purposes).

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 vulnerable whānau

Whānau who struggle most with the digital world are concerned that 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, this would help transition the most vulnerable 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 is 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.

Making digital inclusion a priority

In 2019, government laid out the Digital Inclusion Blueprint and Action Plan, a vision and roadmap working to make sure that all New Zealanders can participate in, contribute to and benefit from the digital world.

That vision continues to come to life in the 2020 Digital Inclusion Action Plan which outlines the range of government activities that are underway and planned in order to make a more digitally inclusive New Zealand. For example, focusing on closing digital skills gaps for whānau, iwi and small businesses in order to support them in being able to better engage digitally.

Part of the work is user experience research, which has been undertaken to more fully understand the perceptions and feelings about digital inclusion in vulnerable communities. With a more in-depth understanding of the key pain points for individuals of vulnerable communities, improvements can be made to make it a more equitable digital environment.

“We urge people to read the report, consider how they might be able to use the findings in terms of their digital strategies to increase digital inclusion for Māori people and communities.” says Dianne Patrick, Programme Lead for digital inclusion at DIA.

More information

For more information about digital inclusion, email: digitalinclusion@dia.govt.nz

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