The new government digital inclusion action plan—has it done enough for a MallowPuff?

Kim Connolly-Stone Policy Director •

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Government has recently done a quiet release of its Digital Inclusion Action Plan for 2020-2021. I took a look to see how it measures up. 

 

On the plus side, it provides a handy summary of what the Government has on the go in the digital inclusion area. While it mainly canvasses existing work, there are some bouquets for new money and new initiatives to bolster digital skills for individuals and small businesses. But, overall, the level of ambition and government investment comes up short of what we were hoping for at a time when COVID-19 has shown us how essential digital inclusion is for wellbeing and economic recovery. I can’t help but think, if not now, when?

Elements of the five point plan

How the Government Action plan stacks up

Affordable connectivity

No initiatives, but there is an offer to talk about this for next year. The Ministry of Education COVID-19 programme included connectivity for families with school children, but this finishes at the end of September.

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Getting devices to people who can’t afford them

No initiatives. The Ministry of Education COVID-19 programme included laptops for students, but this finishes at the end of September—and, we need to think about devices for people of all ages.

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Wrap around support for the newly connected

The new money for digital skills for individuals and whanau and to support libraries is great, however we need a longer term solution to empower communities to support their people. 

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Digital skills for displaced workers

The Action Plan doesn’t include funding for the digital upskilling of displaced workers.

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Digital skills for small businesses

The Action Plan includes funding for small businesses to gain digital skills.

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Longer term Internet resilience

The Action Plan references the continued roll out of the Government’s connectivity programmes, and the use of savings to bring forward upgrades to rural infrastructure. While not mentioned in the Plan, $50 million for further rural broadband digital connectivity has also been allocated from the $3 billion infrastructure fund in the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. 

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