If New Zealand’s economic future requires a focus on a digital economy, what are the barriers to that taking off?
No doubt there are a few. One of them is who gets access access to technology.
How many people in New Zealand currently don’t have a computer in their homes? Perhaps more importantly, how many of these people have pre-school or school-aged children?
And how many of the schools that they go to have good connectivity and are likely to be connected to the ultrafast broadband network in the foreseeable future?
Take a child of 5 starting school on 25 October. No computer at home. Limited connectivity at the school. Could be in South Auckland. Could be Palmerston North. Could be Balclutha.
One or two computers per classroom. In 5 years time, aged 10, her school has only just been connected to the ultrafast broadband network.
Because the school has to look for most of the money within its existing operations budget, it’s still grappling with the increased costs to upgrade wiring, hardware and software. There’s still only a few PCs in each classroom.
Her parents have now bought a computer at home but still can’t afford to connect.
Compare that to the 5 year old on the North Shore who’s parents have iPads, iPhones and iMacs. They use a wireless connection at home. Their suburb was a priority to get connected to Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB). As was their daughter’s school, which was in the first wave of connectivity. All the children have devices at school. Their child regularly uses the internet for her homework.
This is the digital divide. It’s already here. It must not get bigger. Labour intends to close it.