Digital inclusion efforts to continue after funding pulled
In May 2016, the government advised the Computers in Homes programme that funding of its present form would not continue beyond June this year. Operators of the initiative, 20/20 Trust, have been running the programme since 2001, and have helped more than 19,000 families build digital skills. After learning of the pulled funding, the team went to work preparing a new vision for the future of digital inclusion services in this country. This is in the hope of showing the government the necessity of investing in equitable access for all New Zealanders. The new approach retains many of the successful elements of the Computers in Homes programme. Retaining the core focus on local community engagement and building digital confidence. 20/20 Trust have not been idle in the period since their notice, and have spent the time modularising their programmes to be more responsive. This enables them to be delivered in different combinations to individual communities. With recent research showing there are still 40,000 school-age families with no internet access at home. This includes 120,000 children in year four or above, when digital technologies are a key part of the curriculum. The goal is to remove the wedge driven into society resulting in a digital divide, which has real-world effects impacting education, employability and social deprivation. The government has committed to a target of conducting 70% of their transactions online by the end of this year. As of December 2016, this number sat around 58%. As the digitally disadvantaged make up a significant number of those in need of government services, this move online could further alienate people according the trust. The funding for Computers in Homes made up 70% of 20/20 Trusts income, meaning they will need to significantly reduce their working hours and their work throughout new Zealand. They will still continue to work in communities and combat the digital divide, running key programmes while seeking further funding opportunities. The trust will keep up discussions with the government to potentially secure investment and be able to continue their work in communities and school. Computers in Homes, Refugee Connect, Stepping UP, Spark Jump and KiwiSkills will continue to operate in the meantime, but possibly with reduced hours and levels of coverage.