News

Sue West 2020 Trust

By Sue West, 20/20 Trust
Our article last year discussed digital literacy and inclusion: the financial costs of being offline are high; social costs are growing; and people without internet include our most vulnerable families and citizens, typically high users of government and social services and relatively isolated.

So what’s happened since?

The Government gives digital inclusion high priority in speeches and conferences. The Hon. Clare Curran, Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media includes digital inclusion in nearly every speech. She has established a Ministerial Digital Advisory Group to advise how “to grow the digital economy and reduce digital divides” and to develop a blueprint for achieving digital inclusion by the year 2020. But no new funding has been announced, nor has funding for the Computers in Homes programme been re-instated, despite a commitment in the Coalition Agreement between the Labour Party and New Zealand First.

“We are concerned about the impact on the digitally excluded – that is 100,000+ school-aged children without internet access at home,” said Laurence Millar of 20/20 Trust. “These families will be cut further adrift each year they are not digitally connected.”

The 2018 Census was the first ‘online by default’ census. Eightytwo percent of responding households completed the Census online, but despite proactive action to reach those offline the number of non-responders nearly doubled from 5.5 percent in 2013 to around 10 percent. That’s about 487,000 New Zealanders whose needs won’t show when priorities are set and resources allocated, predominantly people that all working in the ACE sector are trying to help.

NZ and overseas research continues to show growing effects of digital exclusion; e.g. in the United Kingdom 41 percent of local councils require citizens to go online to claim housing and tax benefits.

Recent World Internet Project NZ research reinforced the main barriers for people going online. They are the same barriers our programmes are tackling:

  • Motivation to use the internet – knowing the likely benefits for them
  • Core digital skills – lacking the skills and confidence
  • Affordable access to the internet – a digital device and ongoing connection costs
  • Trust in online services – knowing how to protect yourself online.

Our programmes

Family Connect, our newest programme funded by TEC, is making a real impact in Auckland. Our 18 social-good partners in Auckland City, Manukau, Papakura and Waitakere have referred over 400 learners. Participants include solo parents; families made homeless; a home Dad wanting to help his children with school work; and a lady (a street worker since age 12) who wants better work and a better future.

After initial training they show a significant increase in confidence, making good use of their new skills. They are working through Individual Learning Plans with support from tutors. For some this leads to further learning, in Early Childhood Education, Nursing and Law. Others are researching primary teaching, social work, counselling and community development work.

We’re excited by the difference it’s making and hope to expand the programme in 2019.

Our network of partner libraries and community centres has grown 50 percent this year, to nearly 100 nationwide. They provide two-hour training modules covering basic digital literacy, lifeskills, work-skills and interests and connection using Spark Jump: affordable, no-hassle, wireless broadband for families with children.

Computers in Homes funding will be considered again in Budget 2019. This award-winning school/home programme includes training, computer/laptop, subsidised home broadband and support. Research shows real continuing benefits for 18,695 participant families over the last 17 years.

ICDL digital skills training is still relevant. ICDL is the international qualification for work-ready digital competency and work-place digital skills. Workbook-based Digital Citizen programmes work well for people with low levels of basic literacy, while others progress their digital skills with online training and testing.

Delivery by local partners remains critical. The 20/20 programme delivery model involves working collaboratively with local ACE partners. We are happy to engage with any organisation that shares our vision of a digitally included society.

To discuss adding digital skills to your programmes, contact me at sue.west@2020.org.nz 027 546 9738; for more information see our website 2020.org.nz.

This article was published in the ACE Aotearoa Winter Newsletter 2018.