Digital Inclusion should be Key Action Area in new Seniors Strategy

Comments on a new draft strategy for older New Zealanders, Better Later Life He Oranga Kaumātua 2019-2034 close today.  The strategy acknowledges the need for digital inclusion policies, but DIAA believes digital inclusion should be recognised as a Key Action Area.

The draft Strategy identifies five Key Action Areas:

  • preparing for financial and economic security
  • improving access to health and social services
  • providing housing choices and options so people can age in the community
  • enhancing opportunities for social connection and participation
  • providing accessible built environments so people can participate in their community

It is hard to argue that any of these are not important, and digital inclusion is recognised as one element of the fourth action area – enhancing opportunities for social connection and participation.

But, as this strategy aims to set the Government’s policy framework for the next 15 years, we think Digital Inclusion should be recognised as a Key Action Area in its own right.  Digital Inclusion can contribute directly to all five areas identified in the Strategy.  While the most obvious contribution today is perhaps about reducing isolation and loneliness, this falls well short of the real contribution that digital technologies can make in enhancing the lives of seniors.

For example, as physical banking facilities are withdrawn, seniors are one of the most disadvantaged groups.  They are also amongst the most vulnerable when it comes to financial scams.  Seniors living in rural and remote areas are also facing new challenges in accessing health and social services; online technologies and services are starting to plug this gap. Without online access it is also becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable accommodation; this affects everyone but especially seniors who may be more restricted in their physical abilities.

In our submission on the draft Strategy, we have asked Government to take a more future-focused approach and elevate Digital Inclusion to a Key Action Area.