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Significant support needed for Pacific peoples to be digitally included

Significant support is needed for all Pacific peoples to be digitally included, according to a new qualitative research report, Digital Inclusion User Insights — Pacific Peoples, by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). 

DIA estimates as many as 1 in 5 New Zealanders face barriers to digital inclusion and this trend has been exacerbated by COVID-19. However, Pacific peoples are at more risk. For example: 1 in 5 of Pacific peoples aged 16 to 65 years have no computer experience, have not passed a simple computer-use assessment, or decline to use a computer.

For the same skill set, this is twice the rate of barriers for non-Pacific populations (Pacific adults' literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) report, Ministry of Education, October 2018).

The ‘Digital Inclusion User Insights — Pacific Peoples’ report highlights the issues that impact some Pacific peoples’ ability to easily and confidently use the internet and digital services.

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 Pacific peoples and communities.

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

Pacific peoples’ experiences — the findings

The research report ‘Digital Inclusion User Insights — Pacific Peoples’ gives Pacific peoples a voice and outlines their lived experience in terms of being digitally enabled.

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

1. 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 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 digital exclusion of some Pacific peoples.

2. 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.

3. 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 believe that Pacific communities are losing access to government support and entitlements, and becoming increasingly marginalised in society. They feel that during the global pandemic many Pacific peoples were not receiving vital information and were unable to access services, especially during Alert levels 3 and 4 lockdowns.

Pacific leaders believe 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.

4. 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 that 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.  

5. 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.

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 underway and the plan 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 to be able to better engage digitally.

A key 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.

More information

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

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