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Digital Inclusion for Māori People Essential and Urgent

The ramping up of digital inclusion for Māori people is more urgent and pronounced in the new norm. The onset of the pandemic has intensifying people’s ability to participate in, contribute to and benefit from the digital world. The findings are from a new qualitative research report Digital Inclusion User Insights – Māori by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).

The report suggests that up to 20%, or as many as 1 in 5, New Zealanders face difficulties in digital access while for Māori the risk is larger. For example, Māori households were less likely to have internet access (access was 16% less likely in Māori households, compared to non-Māori households).

The interviewees felt that that services need to be both culturally and digitally inclusive to support the increased digital inclusion of Māori people. Affordability – the cost of access to the internet and devices – is the greatest digital inclusion barrier per the Māori people who were interviewed. Digital skills training was a key consideration and an important factor in increasing digital inclusion.

Dianne Patrick, Programme Lead for digital inclusion, Digital Public Service, Department of Internal Affairs feels the research would be highly useful. She says garnered user insights and stories will offer foundational understanding to the far-reaching challenge of digital inclusion. The findings offer invaluable considerations for those designing services for different digital perspectives and population groups.

The research report ‘Digital Inclusion User Insights – Māori’ outlines their lived experience of digital inclusion. Emerging from the qualitative data of the user research are four key findings:

  1. Need for affordable internet and device access

Māori communities believe improved access to affordable internet and devices would bring a range of important social, economic and education-related benefits. Specifically, it would help them:

  • learn
  • communicate
  • access cultural information
  • work and do business
  • carry out cultural practices
  • do business on marae (a communal, sacred place that serves religious and social purposes)
  1. Strong leadership and power-sharing between government and iwi

Māori leaders want to work with others to address the digital divide. They believe strong leadership from the government on the issues related to digital inclusion, coupled with a genuine willingness to partner with iwi, will play a major role in achieving that goal.

  1. Digital-first and online-by-default strategies are marginalising vulnerable whānau

As traditional face-to-face customer services are replaced by online services, whānau (communities) that struggle the most with the digital world are concerned that the government and other organisations, such as banks, are leaving them behind.

On the other hand, many also believe that, if the cost barriers to the internet and devices were significantly reduced and digital skills training was readily available, this would help transition the most vulnerable whānau to the online world.

  1. Skills training for all ages

Māori of all ages and geographic locations recognise the need for skills training which should be provided by people they know and trust.

Whānau (community) and leaders want access to skills training in the education sector, in the community, at work and, ideally, in marae, for courses in:

  • basic literacy and computer skills
  • programming and design
  • business and technology skills
  • maintaining wellbeing.
  • Making digital inclusion a priority

The government laid out the Digital Inclusion Blueprint and Action Plan in 2019 – a vision and roadmap aimed at ensuring all New Zealanders can participate in, contribute to and benefit from the digital world.

The 2020 Digital Inclusion Action Plan outlines the range of government activities that are underway and planned to make a more digitally inclusive New Zealand. 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.

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