As COVID-19 makes its presence felt across the planet, we have been told repeatedly how to protect against the virus: wash your hands, stay home if you're feeling unwell, don't touch your face.
But there's something more significant than each of these protections – information.
Without the rapid dissemination of information, we wouldn't know to take the above precautions, and we wouldn't know the extent and seriousness of the pandemic.
The internet is turning out to be an indispensable tool against the spread of the virus because of its unmatched ability to spread information.
In light of this, InternetNZ has today called on the government and internet service providers (ISPs) to ensure every New Zealander is online to ensure they are up to date with the coronavirus.
Internet connection is also necessary for the increasing number of those opting to work from home, and will be necessary for learning if eventually New Zealand follows in the footsteps of several other countries and closes its schools.
‘Flattening the curve' – or ensuring the virus is contained enough so as not to overwhelm the healthcare system – is only possible if everyone in the country is aware of the ways in which to achieve this.
The most effective way to do this is to ensure everyone has an internet connection, says InternetNZ.
“The internet is one of the best tools we have to help New Zealand keep going during these challenging times,” says InternetNZ chief executive officer Jordan Carter.
"It is already an important part of everyday life. As we respond to the COVID-19 crisis, connectivity for all New Zealanders is vital to maintaining social cohesion, sharing essential information and maintaining work and education," says Carter.
The non-profit organisation says it wants to see the New Zealand government commit to practical action, as part of the next phase of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its statement, InternetNZ called for:
- Direct schools network provider Network for Learning to develop solutions for providing connectivity to school communities, building off its service infrastructure into schools.
- Partner with commercial ISPs to develop and distribute solutions for beneficiaries and those on low incomes.
- Provide subsidies for Internet connectivity and, if necessary, internet-capable devices, to low-income households.
As household data usage increases, InternetNZ also asked ISPs to commit to waiving charges for people that go over their data allowances, as is being done in Australia.
ISPs should also consider not disconnecting customers who fail to pay their bills during this unprecedented time, says InternetNZ.
"The Internet will help us all stay connected, informed and productive during this COVID-19 crisis,” says Carter.
“We must work together to ensure all New Zealanders have access.”