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Mitchell Pham

New Zealand must champion digital inclusion #weeknotes (2)

We are the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand. We are looking forward to sharing our mahi (work) here with you. In keeping with the #weeknotes approach, we want to be transparent about our work. Plus, we are looking for input from people from all walks of life to inform our advice to the New Zealand Government on harnessing the potential of digital and data to make Aotearoa New Zealand a great place for all.

Last week we continued to talk to a number of stakeholder groups to develop our understanding of life in New Zealand beyond Covid-19 and the immediate crisis.

For example, what do we want our new normal to look like? And what are the big transformational shifts that digital and data-driven technologies can deliver to create a fairer, more equitable society that benefits everyone?

New Zealand must become a more digitally-included society

The Citizens Advice Bureau highlighted the importance of a more digitally-included society, referring to their recent report, Face-to-face with digital exclusion — a CAB spotlight report into the impacts of digital public services on inclusion and wellbeing.

The government has a legal obligation in its provision of public services to ensure that it does not exclude people from the services, rights and entitlements they are trying to access.

Many government services are particularly important for already-marginalised groups within the community: people with disabilities, Māori and Pacific Peoples, older people, and those for whom English is not a first language.

Access to government services is a human right — CAB spotlight report, February 2020.

From this discussion, we gained insight into some of the issues for some of their clients who are Māori and Pasifika, people with disabilities and people who struggle with literacy. We learned problems span all ages and include the lack of digital skills within communities to people’s preference to consume public service information offline.

Now is the time for digital transformation within New Zealand

Talking to Dave Moskovitz, a leading tech entrepreneur, it was clear people across the world are deeply involved in ‘hacking’ the crisis by forming networks of organisations, economic development agencies, incubators, academic organisations, government agencies and so on — and New Zealand is no different.

Ideas starting to emerge from this kind of activity include the need to support business with initiatives such as innovation clinics; the need to involve the education sector and Māori innovators; and the need for funding to support digital transformation.

We were told the right kind of leadership is crucial right now, i.e., the kind of leadership that could demonstrate different thinking for different times.

Investment in digital skills are vital for New Zealand

One of the most significant themes to come through our stakeholder meeting with InternetNZ included the need for investment in digital skills training.

Improved investment had the potential to help the unemployed upskill for new work opportunities in a new post-COVID world; it could help bridge the gap between the digitally excluded and the digitally included; and it could boost the skills of New Zealand’s tech sector.

But investment needed to be driven by a multi-layered strategy we were told. And it needed to be a strategy that involved a diverse range of stakeholders, including teachers and education leaders from the compulsory education sector to planners involved in economic development.

Trust and social license are issues that must be addressed

The issues of trust and social license were the key issues for Juliet Gerrard, the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor.

New Zealanders needed to know and feel confident that tomorrow’s technology would guard their privacy, protect their data and that it would be used for good.

Her advice was to focus on these themes and to involve a diverse range of views in any research or debate.

More information about the Council’s stakeholder engagement programme

As the Digital Council for Aotearoa, we have the opportunity to help the Government think about the future as the country moves into post-COVID recovery mode.

So it is important to talk to New Zealanders about what they are experiencing and learning from COVID-19. That’s why we are planning to reach out to more people and organisations as part of a formal stakeholder engagement programme in the weeks to come

More information on that programme and how to get in touch will be available shortly. In the meantime, we encourage you to keep in touch with us on MediumLinkedIn and Twitter.

About our work: Council members come together monthly to make key decisions and progress our work programme. Between formal meetings, members focus on various work streams. Colin and Marianne lead our research work, Kendall and Roger our ad-hoc work, and Rachel and Nikora lead our comms, while our chair, Mitchell, holds responsibility for stakeholder engagement.

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Mitchell Pham Mitchell Pham is a director of the CodeHQ in New Zealand and Vietnam, and co-founder of the Kiwi Connection Tech Hub – a platform for NZ technology businesses to accelerate presence & engagement in South East Asia