Why a Digital Inclusion Alliance?

Laurence Zwimpfer

Today a new organisation is being announced – Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa.  But why do we need a Digital Inclusion Alliance?

The 2017 Pulse of Our Nation report, prepared by the Digital Inclusion Research Group for MBIE and DIA, suggested that it is time to move from projects to programmes if we are serious about solving ‘digital divides’.  While government is clearly a critical player in charting this course, it is not just a matter for government.  What is required is a joined up whole-of-community response.

Sir Stephen Tindall highlighted this issue in an address he gave at Treasury in December 2016. He wasn’t speaking specifically about digital inclusion, but rather about other major social challenges that New Zealand is facing.  He reflected on something we are all very familiar with – community organisations drawing on resources from government, philanthropists and corporates to implement all sorts of ‘good ideas’ and deliver ‘on-the-ground’ responses to community needs.  Sir Stephen was not critical of the high level of innovation and commitment from community organisations, but rather the lack of follow through by Government in scaling the successful ventures through policy development.

We are at this turning point now with digital inclusion.  For more than 20 years numerous organisations, but especially the 20/20 Trust, have focused on tackling ‘digital divides’.  But even when projects have been able to demonstrate positive community outcomes, such as the long-running Computers in Homes initiative, they have failed to achieve widespread system change.

This needs to change and it is time for organisations involved in digital inclusion projects to join forces with a shared vision of a digitally-included New Zealand society, where everyone has equitable opportunities to engage.  This is why we need an Alliance.