Government urged to boost internet use by the disadvantaged

New report on digital inclusion releaseds

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A report commissioned by the Department of Internal Affairs has identified two groups — social housing residents and individuals with disabilities — that are particularly at risk from having limited internet access. There a strong case for government intervention to enable internet access for these individuals, it argues.

The report Digital inclusion and wellbeing in New Zealand was prepared by Arthur Grimes and Dominic White of the Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.

DIA commissioned the report following release of the Digital Inclusion Blueprint to determine which groups have a lower likelihood of being digitally included in New Zealand and why, and how digital inclusion relates to waiora/wellbeing.

Minister for government digital services Megan Woods announced the blueprint in May, saying it had been designed to help New Zealanders take full advantage of the internet, and help the Government identify groups that struggle to access online services.

She said the blueprint would be used to coordinate the planning of different Government and community initiatives, and identify where future investment and action were needed.

Motu found those in social housing and people with disabilities appearing to be particularly disadvantaged with respect to internet access.

“Just 69 percent of those living in Housing NZ (or local equivalent) social housing report having access to the internet, compared with 91 percent reporting access across all respondents,” it said.

“Only 71 percent of people with disabilities report having access to the internet. In the 2018 NZCVS [New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey] 17 percent of people with disabilities indicate having no internet access compared to the full sample where just five percent have no internet access.”

It described these gaps in internet access as “perhaps the most disturbing” and concluded they were potentially amenable to policy interventions.

“Most social housing is owned by the state. local authorities or NGOs. The social housing provider could take the initiative to install WiFi (or other technologies) to enable internet access by tenants,” the report said.

“Provision of such infrastructure may be considered of similar importance to provision of water, sewerage and electricity to these tenants. … Similarly, many people with disabilities are already subject to some form of care by state agencies or NGOs. These authorities may consider enabling internet use for their clients as a key intervention to improve the opportunities for those with disabilities to connect with the rest of society.”

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