New report amplifies voices of Kiwis experiencing digital exclusion

The Vodafone New Zealand Foundation and InternetNZ today published a research paper, Out of the Maze, to provide a platform for the voices of Kiwis experiencing digital exclusion.

The paper authored by Marianne Elliott from The Workshop, is focused on listening and learning from those with lived experience of digital exclusion. The Vodafone Foundation and InternetNZ commissioned the research as an important next step in working towards the vision of a digitally connected Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Vodafone Foundation is committed to halving the number of excluded and disadvantaged youth by 2027.  Vodafone Foundation Manager, Lani Evans believes digital inclusion plays an important role in supporting that goal. 

“This research has given us the opportunity to explore digital inclusion from the perspective of people and caregivers who have first-hand experience with access issues. The Foundation is proud to play a role in providing a platform for Kiwi’s voices so we can understand how to design and deliver better digital services for everyone.”

The report links digital inclusion with social inclusion, pointing out the range of things people use, or want to use, the internet for includes accessing government services, engaging in education, communication, research, entertainment, banking, shopping, and navigating.

Policy Director of InternetNZ, Dr Ellen Strickland, explains, “The Internet is deeply integrated into many of our lives.  We can forget how the world is experienced by those who don’t have access to the devices and connectivity that we take for granted. InternetNZ believes that Internet access for all New Zealanders will unlock the transformative benefits of meaningful digital inclusion. As leaders in this space, we’re partnering with organisations with similar values and beliefs to ensure our fellow New Zealanders are being heard.”

Participants in the research described the impact of not being able to access the internet in terms of exclusion, isolation, powerlessness and limited opportunity. There was emphasis that losing the ability to be digitally connected can have a disproportionately harmful impact when people are in a period of vulnerability or experiencing transition, such as a young person leaving home with no family support. 

Elliott adds, “The research suggests that digital exclusion is not a static state, but a permeable one, with people moving in and out of digital access as the conditions and circumstances of their lives change. For many people, it’s those points of transition that create the most vulnerability.”

The report shows the biggest barriers to digital inclusion are cost, physical access, motivation, trust and safety, skills and capacity.

Evans continues, “At the Foundation we believe in keeping our youth at the centre of the work to give us the best chance of creating successful solutions.  These issues are complex and complicated to resolve but are important to identify as part of reaching our ambitious goal.”

The research suggests multiple parties who could help contribute to a digitally inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand including local iwi and government, policy makers, tech and communication companies and charitable organisations.

The qualitative research was derived from participants in four targeted regions in New Zealand that were identified as being key areas affected by digital exclusion. The groups interviewed focused on young adults (aged 16-24 years-old), parents and care givers of children.

To read the Out of the Maze by Marianne Elliott, head to: report.digitaldivides.nz

Out of the Maze research was conducted by The Workshop on behalf of InternetNZ and the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation. The lead researcher and author of the report was Marianne Elliott, with research assistance from Ella Brownlie and advice from Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw.