Bridging the Digital Divide


Bridging the Digital Divide

Imagine a world where you can’t just jump online to apply for jobs, access services or communicate with friends or family.

That’s the reality for half a million New Zealanders stuck on the wrong side of a digital divide that’s been starkly revealed during lockdowns in the past year.

Now the PSA is ramping up its efforts to ensure all New Zealanders have access to the internet.

We’ve joined the call for the Government to implement Internet New Zealand’s five-point plan to address digital inclusion.

AN ONLINE WORLD

PSA LetsDoEvenBetter PurpleInternet access for all is also one of the goals of the PSA’s Aotearoa Wellbeing Commitment campaign for universal basic services.

PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk says that’s because people who can’t use or access the internet struggle to participate fully in their community.

“The world has increasingly shifted online, and everyone should have the tools and skills to navigate that space.”

 

Internet NZ’s Kim Connolly-Stone is pleased a growing list of organisations and individuals are joining the call to make the internet and technology more accessible by implementing their five-point plan. 

The plan calls for affordable connectivity, getting devices to those who can’t afford them, support for the newly connected, digital skills to aid people find new employment, and longer-term internet resilience.

SOCIAL EXCLUSION

Research commissioned by Internet NZ and the Vodafone Foundation has shown those experiencing digital exclusion are also experiencing social exclusion.

The Out of the Maze Report identified key barriers to access.

These ranged from financial to physical, trust and safety barriers. These barriers were only exacerbated by the escalating global pandemic.

LESSONS FROM LOCKDOWN

“Covid-19 has shown us just how important the internet is for everyday life.  During lockdowns it allowed many of u

CMYK Kim Connolly Stone2

Internet NZ's Kim Connolly-Stone

s to get the information we needed, communicate with family and friends, access government services, run businesses, work and study,” Kim says.

However, accessing the internet and the technology to do so wasn’t as simple as dusting off a laptop and turning the switch on.

The public services, education sector and business sprung into action to address the immediate need for households to be connected for work and study. But many are still left behind.

Data from the latest census conducted online found 11% of people did not have internet access at home. 

For some groups the picture is even worse. An estimated 31% of those in social housing and 29% of disabled people do not have internet access.

Erin says the PSA would like to see internet access in social housing and paid for by the government.

LIBRARIES BRIDGE DIVIDE

"Thousands of PSA members work in our public libraries, and a big chunk of their day is often spent helping the digitally excluded to send emails or understand complex online applications,” she says.

CMYK Avril McKenzie

Avril McKenzie

PSA member Avril McKenzie is a network library and customer service assistant in Auckland who is all too familiar with the challenges people face in accessing the internet and the lack of devices in homes.

She says that there wouldn’t be a day where the library’s computers weren’t being used to access or send essential information.

“People are applying for jobs, accessing social services, printing important documents. In periods of lockdown, some of these people don’t have access to the internet or technology at all.”

Avril helps sign customers up to Skinny Jump, which aims to get more affordable internet access into homes in low-income areas through cheap wi-fi and a free modem.

“It really helps those who can’t normally afford an internet connection, it helps kids and adults continue their learning, and best of all they can access many of our library services online.”

But while programmes like Skinny Jump and other community internet provision schemes have helped, the Internet NZ five-point plan will take current efforts by government, business, and community to the next level so that all New Zealanders can step forward confidently into our increasingly digital future.

Nā Ta'ase Vaoga

 The five point plan for digital inclusion

  1. Affordable connectivity - whilst the government is strengthening our infrastructure, it’s now time to ensure everyone can access affordable internet no matter the circumstance.
  2. Getting devices to people who can’t afford them - there is the perception that devices are everywhere, however, there are still many who are accessing essential information through library internet services and using community services like Citizens Advice Bureau.
  3. Support for the newly connected - Where’s the any key? When we’re starting out, we need support so we can confidently navigate our new found connectivity. Setting up email, connecting to the internet, and accessing government services is only one part of the support which needs to be offered.
  4. Digital skills - Preparing a CV and applying for jobs with developed digital skills can open up opportunities for those needing new employment. With growing online activity, small businesses can also benefit from refined digital skills to maintain engagement with their customer base.
  5. Longer term internet resilience - the internet is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives and so as the infrastructure connects more regions, the need for faster, reliable internet will continue to grow.

 

 

Also in this issue:


News in Brief

In our News in Brief, Pasefika representation is being implemented across our union, we announce a new Māori leadership role, and acknowledge the anniversary of the March 15 attacks.

Read More

President's Message

Kia ora e te whānau o Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi

Read More

Nevertheless we're Persisting!

The theme for our Women’s Network Conference in March was to have been ‘Nevertheless She Persisted’.

Read More

"I found it very easy"

A year into the global pandemic, the roll out of vaccinations is being welcomed by many workers on the frontline.

Read More

Saving our Libraries

The PSA has helped defeat a proposal to partially-privatise Wellington library and slash its budget.

Read More

“It’s not easy opening your hearts up”

The opening hearings in the Waitangi Tribunal’s Mana Wahine Inquiry have heard powerful kōrero about the power, authority and status held by wāhine Māori in pre-colonial Aotearoa.

Read More

Hard won recognition

An interim equal pay agreement for DHB administration and clerical workers is being greeted with a mixture of satisfaction and relief.

Read More

“We’ve come a long way”

Ten years on from the February 22 earthquake we reflect on the challenges faced by our members in Canterbury as they helped their community to rebuild.

Read More

Summer Snaps Competition

We’ve had a great response to our PSA Plus Holiday Homes Photo competition with some quality snaps making it hard to choose a winner.

Read More

Fight back in Myanmar

The military coup in Myanmar has deeply shaken hopes for democracy but public servants and unions are fighting back.

Read More

Plea for more sick leave

PSA home support members have told a parliamentary select committee they need more sick leave to keep themselves and their clients safe.

Read More

What do we want from health & disability review?

As we await the Government’s response to the health and disability sector review, we asked our PSA Community Public Services and DHB sector committees what they’re looking for.

Read More

"No fear factor" about disability

The formation of a network for disabled staff at Inland Revenue snowballed out of a desire to move beyond a “one click, one size fits all” mentality.

Read More

Leading the Way

It may say something about Brad Hedger’s commitment to the union that he agreed to speak to Working Life about his role as a PSA delegate just days before his wedding.

Read More

Climate Talk

New Zealand is stealing from the peoples of the Pacific. We are stealing their land, their homes, their water, and in doing so, we are jeopardising their future.

Read More

Challenging the Norm

Working mum Pip Bennett decided to research gender norms after becoming frustrated that everything was being left to her.

Read More

Men raising boys

A new book has inspired PSA member and stay-at home dad Aaron Packard to consider how we can help men to be more hands-on fathers

Read More

#My Mihi challenge

Learning a language is about starting out small and taking that first step.

Read More

Around & About

The Pride March in Auckland features among the events in our PSA picture page for this issue.

Read More

Big Brother Bosses - should you be worried?

Imagine you’re using a computer. Someone else installed software on it, and uses it to track your keystrokes, learn your password and access your personal email account.

Read More