New Zealand online : what’s happened to our Digital Strategy?

Author: Williams, Jocelyn

Date: 2014-12-22

Publisher: Unitec ePress

Type: Unclassified

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The world started to talk about a “digital divide” in the mid-1990s. Governments had to grapple with its meaning and anticipate its ramifications (Maharey and Swain, 2000), although the swiftness with which the world was entering a new internet era from 1995 meant it was difficult to keep ahead with coherent strategy. Much has been achieved in regard to internet access in New Zealand since 2000. One reason is that we have a track record of relatively rapid adoption of electronic technologies (Doolin et al, 2005), and as predicted in diffusion of innovations theory (Rogers, 2003) greater penetration of the New Zealand market has been achieved for technological innovations such as smart phones. Large-scale household surveys show a gradual closing of the information and communication technologies [ICTs] access gap (Statistics New Zealand, 2009; Bascand, 2013). Yet it may surprise some people to know that digital inclusion remains an issue in New Zealand society, especially where school-aged children in poorer communities are concerned (Statistics New Zealand, 2006a). Although New Zealand is a developed nation that by many measures appears to enjoy a good standard of living, lack of economic prosperity across the nation as a whole is driving income disparity, and the 2006-2008 global recession has led to increasingly thinly spread public sector resources. Improved economic performance is a governmental priority, and in that context digital literacy - “the new forms of literacy required from the incorporation of digital technology in the structures, flows and embodied experiences of everyday life” (Goggin, 2008, p. 88) - is vital so that people can contribute to the economy. However, one fifth of New Zealand households, especially those in low socio-economic areas, remain without internet access at the time of writing (Bascand, 2013). This is a matter of concern in terms of the need to include as many skilled people in the workforce as possible, and to stimulate the economy through high-tech innovation so that it is less dependent on primary production and tourism, and more on “weightless exports” (The Committee for Auckland, 2012, p. 7). Currently “staggering talent gaps” (ibid) are being identified as cause for concern, especially a growing shortfall of IT skills that are needed to assist business to be more productive, flexible and profitable (ibid, p. 12-13). This essay traces the evolution of a digital strategy in New Zealand, explores reasons why a digital divide persists in spite of it, and invites the reader to consider the importance of the social context for ICTs, and social interaction that facilitates learning, at least as much as the technologies themselves.

Subjects: digital strategy, digital divide, internet access, digital connectedness, social cohesion, ICT, information and communications technology (ICT), 160511 Research, Science and Technology Policy

Copyright: Communication Issues in Aotearoa New Zealand: A Collection of Research Essays, Edited by Giles Dodson & Evangelia Papoutsaki, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.