By Sue West, 20/20 Trust

Most people agree that nowadays personal digital literacy/computer competence is essential for success: the 2017 International Literacy Day’s focus was ‘Literacy in a digital world’: government wants 80% of transactions completed online by 2021; 50% of employees want better digital skills for job security; and the Industry Training Federation and Mayors’ Taskforce for Jobs want better employee digital skills.

The new government gives digital inclusion high priority. The Hon. Clare Curran, Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media recently said “... one in every five use the internet sparingly or not at all… We … can’t afford to exclude anyone from the benefits of digital connectivity. … New Zealanders must have access to technology as a right, regardless of income or geography.

“The Ardern Coalition Government has specifically stated our aim to close the digital divide by 2020.”

Laurence Millar, Chair of 20/20 Trust, says “Digital exclusion affects all ages and many groups. For example, up to 120,000 school-children in year 4 and above are without home internet, while 63% of principals say their students’ lack of home internet access is a problem. This drives a huge wedge into New Zealand society.

“For adults, finding a job without a digital connection and resume is increasingly rare, and digital skills are essential in most jobs.” Whau ACE recently reported that ‘digital skills’ was in the top three programmes wanted by Māori, Pasifika and Asian adult learners.

Overseas studies show the cost of being offline is NZ$1,000 per year. And as internet-enabled services become the norm, economic and social gaps become wider. NZ research shows people without internet are typically high users of government and social services and relatively isolated.

So what have we learnt in 21 years of working towards our vision that all New Zealand citizens fully participate in the digital world, and how does 20/20 work with ACE organisations?

What we have learned

Building digital inclusion is complex. Digital skills alone are not enough – people need a suitable device; affordable broadband access; motivation and confidence. If you have a poorly paid or no job, few qualifications and pressures like poor credit rating, inadequate housing, health or family problems, it’s very, very hard to do this without help.

One size does not fit all. Programmes need to be adaptable and flexible, delivered by local partner organisations in ways that meet local needs. Training is hands-on and practical, in a safe and comfortable learning environment, led by empathetic and trusted training partners.

When all enablers are accessible culturally and socially, the results are often truly transformational for individuals and families. Our research shows that digital skills provide a stepping stone to escape from poverty. They increase confidence, improve employment and earning capacity and reduce daily costs. We are proud that, in 2016-17, 21% of participants in one of our programmes secured a job within 12 months, and 25% went on to further learning.

How we do it

We partner with national and local organisations to deliver our programmes: we have worked with Literacy Aotearoa Poupou and REAP organisations for many years and welcome the opportunity to expand these relationships. The digital divide can only be closed if those working in the education and social services sectors integrate digital into their programmes and grow their client’s digital capability. We can help with developing tutors’ digital skills, access to refurbished computers, affordable broadband, digital skills courses, course booking systems and more.

Our programmes show something of the range and flexibility:

Computers in Homes was piloted at a decile one school in 2001, helping 35 families become digitally-literate. After 20 hours of parent training, we equipped them with refurbished computers, subsidised home broadband, and supported them through their first year online. Research showed real, diverse and continuing benefit for the families.

With government funding, we took the programme nationwide. Last year we helped 1,674 families through 563 schools and 125 training partners, and 130 refugee families. Successful pilot programmes reached young solo mothers and women prisoners.

Funding ended in June this year, after 18,695 families, but is being restored by the new government.

Family Connect is 20/20’s newest programme. It is funded by TEC and delivered in partnership with social service organisations.

Nearly 700 Auckland adults with low or no education qualifications are being supported on a year-long digital learning journey, combining training, device, and broadband with an individual goal-focussed approach. Learners complete 10 hours of digital literacy workshops, followed by 20 hours of individual or small group coaching based on Individual Learning Plans.

Broadband: As well as best-priced broadband from 2 Degrees, we offer Spark Jump – no-contract, no installation cost, prepay wireless broadband. Broadband is offered to all families with children but without home internet.

Stepping UP’s 32 two-hour training modules cover from basic digital literacy to life-skills, work and hobbies. It is offered free by 65 libraries and community centres, supported by a national coordinator, course materials and booking system.

KiwiSkills/ICDL covers basic work-ready and more advanced workplace digital skills. Twenty self-paced, tested and certificated online modules are offered through 58 ACE partners, often as the digital component in their own programmes.

Chair Laurence Millar says: “I am grateful for the support of our training partners, who share our view that all New Zealanders should have affordable access to the internet and the skills and confidence to use digital technologies for learning, for work and for life.

“We continue to seek funding and partners for programmes that increase digital inclusion.”

Joint goal at Panama Road School

At this small decile-1 school, three adult learners decided their common Family Connect goal was gaining their driving licence, to assist with family driving runs and for work.

Programme Coordinator Maria Green used Road Code units to build learner confidence and competency with online systems. Working together, the learners helped each other to reduce individual knowledge gaps. In their last session, Community Police Officer Peter Veukiso discussed how the licence test is completed, with tips on passing the computerised learner licence test. Everyone in the group has now booked to take their learner licence test.

We asked learner Shane, why he had decided to take his licence test: he said he ‘finally felt he could’. Confidence and skills from completing the Family Connect workshops has helped him and the group with solving their problems.

Tania Sneddon, Te Ahu Kaitaia

I am a solo mother of two children, living in Ahipara, west of Kaitaia. I enrolled on a Computer in Homes course, found in my daughter’s school newsletter. I thoroughly enjoyed the course, and I feel I gained a huge amount of computer knowledge. My tutor, (Deb Cloete) was absolutely fabulous. I graduated on 26 June 2015 with 40 other people, and took my new computer and all its bits home. I felt this was quite an accomplishment!

Nearly a year later, my children have used the computer for so many things – music, games, research for school projects. I started out slowly. First with email; then I got on to internet banking and studied Introductory Budgeting on-line, which involved downloading information, using Microsoft Word, researching data and sending e-mails with attachments plus scanning, storing, retrieving and resending information.

I finished my studies and received a 98% pass. I started voluntary work at Kaitaia Family Budgeting Service and soon I was offered a full-time position as a budgeting officer. It all happened so fast – it was a bit overwhelming to begin with. I think the greatest feeling was going to Work & Income to sign off the benefit, what an awesome moment!

Now when I go to Work & Income, I go as an advocate for my clients and that is a great feeling. I’ve been here for five months and look forward to work every day. Things are not such a financial struggle now and my children and I are looking forward to a fabulous Christmas.

Thank you for making this all possible for me!

To discuss how the 20/20 Trust could work with you to include digital literacy in your programmes, please contact Laurence Zwimpfer, National Operations & Development Manager 027 430 6737