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New Zealand launches Digital Tool for Youth Empowerment

Members from New Zealand’s community groups and governmental organisations are looking to adopt the Thriving Rangatahi Explorer – an interactive tool that uses data from Statistics New Zealand to provide a snapshot of what living in Aotearoa is like for people aged 12 to 24.

This comes at a time when young people feel their dreams are limited by gender and racial stereotypes, and when many experience feelings of loneliness. The COVID-19 pandemic has also changed their lives, with students learning online and some families finding themselves having to stretch their budgets.

A charity that focuses on improving young people’s access to resources and opportunities, led to the creation of the online tool. The developer said that there is a lot of work to be done but things like the app provide support for young people and can boost those who are hidden away. The tech developer was also optimistic, especially as organisations work to give support to disadvantaged young people and provide diverse young voices with a platform.

The tool gives the user easy-to-read graphs and tables, allowing people to get in-depth data on young people’s experiences of education, employment and income. It also looks at health, housing, cultural identity, civic participation, wellbeing and social connection It can be viewed online or as an app.

Using Statistics New Zealand data from 2018 to 2020, Thriving Rangatahi Explorer found 190,332 young people (aged 12 to 24) were excluded and disadvantaged in Aotearoa. Experts say that this was linked to being locked out of opportunities. Exclusion and disadvantage were connected to the quality of education, material deprivation and the limited opportunities some young people had to advance in their careers. It also included experiences of racism and interactions with care systems and justice systems.

While this tool provided greater understanding, it was only one step towards improving Aotearoa’s systems for young people. The charity is hopeful the data – which was used with the principles of Māori data sovereignty in mind – could help organisations and young people to advocate for themselves. People who were investors could also look at this information to help them with making decisions that could provide better outcomes.

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni​ said the tool was a “two-way data street” that allowed communities to access information about themselves. Not only did it show obstacles young people faced, but it also provided them and advocates opportunities to look at how they could improve outcomes in the future, she said.

A report states that the Ministry of Youth Development (MYD) wants to see a country where young people thrive, where their voices are heard, and they influence decisions that affect their lives. The ministry wants to see young people supported to build capability and resilience to deal with challenges, and where they are optimistic about their future. Supporting the wellbeing of young people is an important facet, and quality youth development is integral to this.

The heart of the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa (YDSA) remains as relevant now as it was 16 years ago, but the ministry knows it is time for an update to better reflect their cultural context in Aotearoa and the world that young people live in today. MYD is committed to strengthening and reviewing the strategy that is the YDSA.

Cries from the youth sector to revise and strengthen the YDSA have been increasing. While the principles endure, ensuring they reflect the reality of diverse young people today, as well as the rich cultural heritage of Aotearoa –in particular Te Ao Māori – is something the ministry is passionate about.

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