A Case for Digital Inclusion
What is Digital Exclusion?
The internet and digital technology is very much at the heart now of how public, economic and social life functions. It has transformed how we work, communicate, consume, learn, entertain and access information and public services.
And while it’s become integral to all aspects of life, the spread of access and use is uneven and many people remain digitally excluded (OIS, 2013; Selwyn 2004). Those who are excluded can be limited or unable to participate fully in society.
The risk is that the divide between those with digital skills, and those who struggle to overcome barriers to access and use, the growing social and economic gap between those who are connected and those who are not, continues to widen (ONS, 2019; The Wales Co-operative Centre with Carnegie UK Trust, 2018).
How much and how often you use the internet can offer an insight into who could be considered digitally excluded, providing a way to assess how the internet and digital skills impacts on people’s lives (Good Things Foundation, 2017).
A petition on digital exclusion was the focus of a special debate in the New Zealand Parliament on Thursday, 28 July.
The debate will be on the report of the Petitions Committee on the Petition of Citizens Advice Bureau New Zealand: Leave no-one behind—Campaign to address digital exclusion.
This petition requested Parliament address and provide for people facing barriers when engaging with information and services online.
The petitioners suggested the House of Representatives could urge the Government to ensure public services are people-centred and accessible; develop an integrated strategy to address barriers to inclusion; provide increased resourcing for intermediary organisations; and enforce the Web Accessibility Standard.
The Petitions Committee reported back to the House on 19 April and in its report said it understood that work was already under way to improve New Zealand’s digital connectivity and encouraged the Government not to leave behind those who may never be comfortable online.
The nation's biggest corporates are also steadily shifting their services online, leaving many New Zealanders in limbo. The most contentious example of this is seen in the banking sector, with many banks closing rural branches in recent years.
The speed of the change has caught people like Wilson off guard.
"I haven't been to the bank for a very, very long time because the last time I went back to Christchurch, I couldn't even get into the damn joint," she says.
"It's all changed. And that all happened in a matter of three years. I now live about 65km from the nearest bank."
While corporates are free to evolve in the way that they believe best serves their customers, Green says the public sector still has an obligation to deliver services to all New Zealanders.
Green's aim with the petition is to raise awareness, leading to changes in how the Government currently deals with the transition to digital to ensure that no New Zealanders are left behind.