Whanganui leads the way (again!)

Too late!  The deadline for submissions on the new draft Whanganui Digital Strategy has just passed (21 June 2019).  The draft strategy presents four focus areas:

  • connectivity and inclusion
  • high value creative economy
  • innovation
  • a digital council

It is pretty hard to find fault with these focus areas – as a digital inclusion alliance, we of course are delighted to see ‘inclusion’ on the agenda.  We have suggested one small, but significant, tweak to let ‘digital inclusion’ stand alone as a priority focus area.  Connectivity, after all, is just one element of digital inclusion, and without denying its importance, it can be a distraction.  Central Government has spent billions investing in digital connectivity infrastructure, and sure, while there are still some annoying digital gaps, we really need our local authorities and communities to start making use of the infrastructure we already have.

There are some really challenging issues that can only be solved by local communities:

  • explaining the benefits of the digital world to people who don’t think they need it,
  • helping build people’s skills and confidence in using digital technologies, and
  • helping people to understand how to keep themselves and their children safe online.

But this could be just considered a detail for the action plans that will surely follow.  In 2017, Whanganui was named the number one Smart21 Intelligent Community with a population under 50,000.  We congratulate the smart cookies in the Council and the community who developed this new Draft Digital Strategy.  The other 66 city and district councils in New Zealand would do well to take notice!