Chair’s report 2015/16

2015/16 Annual Report 20/20 Trust - 20 years of supporting digital inclusionChair's Report 2015/16Internet access and digital skills are rapidly becoming essential for daily life in New Zealand. Education, health, banking, communicating with family and friends, accessing government services, applying for jobs, finding suppliers, small business administration and promotion, and buying and selling things, are just a few of the many daily activities that are more difficult and more expensive offline. New Zealanders without access, skills and confidence in using these tools are seriously disadvantaged.

Our vision is that all New Zealanders fully participate in the digital world. We estimate that there are still 100,000 schoolchildren without access to the internet at home, and more than 300,000 New Zealanders who have never used the internet. Māori and Pasifika are disproportionately represented, as are other groups including the elderly, the visually impaired and rural families.

The Computers in Homes programme graduated another 1700 families during the year, and continues to be a major factor in connecting families with school-age children to the Internet. A child who does not have access to the Internet at home is not able to fully participate in school activities as the education system increases the use of digital tools. I find it impossible to imagine how children without access to the Internet can be successful in today’s learning environment.

During the year we developed a range of options to scale up the Computers in Homes programme so that every child had access to the Internet at home. The lowest cost option is to aggressively pursue this target to achieve the outcome in four years, compared to ten years under the current level of funding. In Budget 2016, we received funding for one year and were encouraged to work with officials to implement a whole of government social investment approach.

We took the opportunity to look at digital inclusion more broadly and how we can build on our experience and national delivery network to meet the needs of a range of individual communities – choosing the best of our curriculum, courseware, material, training delivery and certificates. During the coming year we are developing the concept of digital pathways to provide the mix of access, skills and confidence that match the needs of different disadvantaged groups and communities.

The workforce of the future needs digital skills to increase workplace productivity; international studies have shown that digital skills can make a significant impact on economic growth and GDP. During the coming year we will work with industry and business leaders to develop proposals for improving digital skills in the workplace. These skills are increasingly important for people seeking to enter the workforce either for the first time or after a period as jobseekers.

Large numbers of students have enrolled in our Kiwiskills programme at secondary schools and PTEs (private training establishments), and we are working on pilots to extend the programme to clients of social sector agencies such as Ministry of Social Development and the Department of Corrections. Digital skills are fundamental for all jobseekers.

The potential for 20/20 Trust to make a real difference – to people’s lives and to the New Zealand economy – has never been higher. I was privileged to be able to take on the role of Executive Director (ED) on an interim basis following the resignation of Vanisa Dhiru in February, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to become more directly involved in the operations of 20/20 Trust. During my time in the role we appointed Sue West as Auckland Manager to further strengthen our Auckland presence, and introduced other changes to ensure we can meet government expectations and improve organisational effectiveness. These changes led to the disestablishment of the position of National Coordinator, Computers in Homes. I would like to pay tribute to the contribution of Di Daniels to the Trust over 15 years; her work has established Computers in Homes as the most successful digital inclusion programme in New Zealand. Di left the Trust in September 2016 and we wish her every success in her future career.

In the next year, we celebrate our 20th anniversary and I am pleased that Stephen Carr has accepted the position of Executive Director to lead the operations of the Trust into our third decade.

We continue to place a high emphasis on the separation of governance and operations. I stepped down as Chair for the interim ED role, and during the year two other Trustees also stood down as Trustees to take on operational roles – Selwyn Screen to support the transition to the new financial reporting standards, and Barbara Craig to focus more intensively on research. I would like to thank Sarah Bacon for stepping into the role of Chair and David Barrow into the role of Treasurer. Selwyn and I expect to return to our positions on the board by the end of 2016.

20/20 Trust has been through a lot of change during the year. Is my view that we are well positioned to contribute to New Zealand’s future as a digital nation and the digital economy.

Laurence Millar

The full 20/20 Trust 2015/2016 Annual Report can be downloaded here (PDF, 1.2 MB)