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New Zealand Commits to Bridging Digital Divide for Seniors

The government has announced it will continue to provide digital training for seniors to help them become digitally enabled. Six digital training providers have been selected to deliver essential digital skills courses to up to 5,000 learners across New Zealand, according to the Minister for Seniors, Ginny Andersen.

Budget 2022 allocated $1.341 million over three years for the Office for Seniors to expand its award-winning Digital Literacy Training for Seniors programme. The programme previously won the education category in the 2021 IDC Smart City Asia Pacific Awards. This expanded three-year programme includes funding for the evaluation of the training.

Andersen noted that being online is becoming increasingly crucial for participating in modern life. However, as many as one in four older people do not access the internet regularly. Barriers to digital inclusion, such as limited access to devices or internet connections, lack of necessary skills, or mistrust of the online environment, can hinder older people from fully participating in the digital world. The programmes initiated by the Office for Seniors aim to provide support and training to help older individuals develop the skills needed to navigate the online world safely and confidently.

The newly allocated funding for digital skills training by the Office for Seniors is targeted to deliver digital skills training in a way that works for diverse groups of older people, including older Maori, Pacific, and East Asian people. The training programmes will be designed considering the unique needs and requirements of these specific groups, ensuring that they can effectively acquire digital skills in a manner that is accessible and inclusive.

Andersen noted that expanding the digital literacy training for seniors programme is a significant step towards improving digital inclusion for older adults. It aims to enable seniors to access the benefits of modern technology, such as online banking and staying connected with their grandchildren.

The government of New Zealand is actively working towards improving connectivity for underserved and marginalised groups as part of its commitment to digital inclusion. Last year, the government completed rolling out the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) project. Through the project, which is one of the country’s largest infrastructure deployment projects, over 1.8 million homes across 412 cities and towns were given access to world-class connectivity. The project covered 87% of the population, as OpenGov Asia reported. The UFB programme was initially rolled out in larger cities and high-density areas. It was later expanded to cover smaller and more rural and remote towns, some of which have populations of fewer than 300 people.

Under the government’s connectivity programmes and as of December 2022, nearly 1,211 km of State Highway have gained mobile coverage. Further, 114 tourism spots have mobile coverage, more than 600 maraes have been connected to broadband, and around 80,000 rural homes and businesses now have access to improved broadband.

Most recently, the government announced a major connectivity milestone as 400 mobile towers have been delivered by a mobile network operator. The move reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring that more rural homes, businesses, and communities have fast, reliable broadband connectivity, irrespective of their location.


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