Digital literacy and digital inclusion

By Sue West, 20/20 Trust
Reprinted from Adult and Community Education Newsletter, Summer 2017, by permission

Most people agree that nowadays personal digital literacy / computer competence is essential for success: the 2017 International Literacy Day’s focus was ‘Literacy in a digital world’: government wants 80% of transactions completed online by 2021; 50% of employees want better digital skills for job security; and the Industry Training Federation and Mayors’ Taskforce for Jobs want better employee digital skills.

The new government gives digital inclusion high priority. The Hon. Clare Curran, Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media recently said “… one in every five use the internet sparingly or not at all… We … can’t afford to exclude anyone from the benefits of digital connectivity. … New Zealanders must have access to technology as a right, regardless of income or geography.

“The Ardern Coalition Government has specifically stated our aim to close the digital divide by 2020.”

Laurence Millar, Chair of 20/20 Trust, says “Digital exclusion affects all ages and many groups. For example, up to 120,000 school-children in year 4 and above are without home internet, while 63% of principals say their students’ lack of home internet access is a problem. This drives a huge wedge into New Zealand society.

“For adults, finding a job without a digital connection and resume is increasingly rare, and digital skills are essential in most jobs.” Whau ACE recently reported that ‘digital skills’ was in the top three programmes wanted by Māori, Pasifika and Asian adult learners.

Overseas studies show the cost of being offline is NZ$1,000 per year. And as internet-enabled services become the norm, economic and social gaps become wider. NZ research shows people without internet are typically high users of government and social services and relatively isolated.

So what have we learnt in 21 years of working towards our vision that all New Zealand citizens fully participate in the digital world, and how does 20/20 work with ACE organisations?

What we have learned

Building digital inclusion is complex. Digital skills alone are not enough – people need a suitable device; affordable broadband access; motivation and confidence. If you have a poorly paid or no job, few qualifications and pressures like poor credit rating, inadequate housing, health or family problems, it’s very, very hard to do this without help.

One size does not fit all. Programmes need to be adaptable and flexible, delivered by local partner organisations in ways that meet local needs. Training is hands-on and practical, in a safe and comfortable learning environment, led by empathetic and trusted training partners.

When all enablers are accessible culturally and socially, the results are often truly transformational for individuals and families. Our research shows that digital skills provide a stepping stone to escape from poverty. They increase confidence, improve employment and earning capacity and reduce daily costs. We are proud that, in 2016-17, 21% of participants in one of our programmes secured a job within 12 months, and 25% went on to further learning.

How we foster digital literacy and inclusion

We partner with national and local organisations to deliver our programmes: we have worked with Literacy Aotearoa Poupou and REAP organisations for many years and welcome the opportunity to expand these relationships. The digital divide can only be closed if those working in the education and social services sectors integrate digital into their programmes and grow their client’s digital capability. We can help with developing tutors’ digital skills, access to refurbished computers, affordable broadband, digital skills courses, course booking systems and more.

Our programmes show something of the range and flexibility:

Computers in Homes - digital literacy for families with school childrenComputers in Homes

Computers in Homes was piloted at a decile one school in 2001, helping 35 families become digitally-literate. After 20 hours of parent training, we equipped them with refurbished computers, subsidised home broadband, and supported them through their first year online. Research showed real, diverse and continuing benefit for the families.

With government funding, we took the programme nationwide. Last year we helped 1,674 families through 563 schools and 125 training partners, and 130 refugee families. Successful pilot programmes reached young solo mothers and women prisoners.

Funding ended in June this year, after 18,695 families, but is being restored by the new government.

Family Connect - digital literacy for allFamily Connect

Family Connect is 20/20’s newest programme. It is funded by TEC and delivered in partnership with social service organisations.

Nearly 700 Auckland adults with low or no education qualifications are being supported on a year-long digital learning journey, combining training, device, and broadband with an individual goal-focussed approach. Learners complete 10 hours of digital literacy workshops, followed by 20 hours of individual or small group coaching based on Individual Learning Plans.

Spark Jump

Broadband: As well as best-priced broadband from 2 Degrees, we offer Spark Jump from the Spark Foundation – no-contract, no installation cost, prepay wireless broadband. Broadband is offered to all families with children but without home internet.

Stepping UP - digital skills for a better futureStepping UP

Stepping UP’s 32 two-hour training modules cover from basic digital literacy to life-skills, work and hobbies. It is offered free by 65 libraries and community centres, supported by a national coordinator, course materials and booking system.

KiwiSkills - digital skills for jobseekersKiwiSkills and ICDL

KiwiSkills/ICDL covers basic work-ready and more advanced workplace digital skills. Twenty self-paced, tested and certificated online modules are offered through 58 ACE partners, often as the digital component in their own programmes.

Chair Laurence Millar says: “I am grateful for the support of our training partners, who share our view that all New Zealanders should have affordable access to the internet and the skills and confidence to use digital technologies for learning, for work and for life.

“We continue to seek funding and partners for programmes that increase digital inclusion.”

The case studies

You’ll find the two case-studies featured in the article here:

More information?

You’ll find more about each initiative under ‘Programmes‘ in the menu bar above, and on programme websites linked from the top navigation strip.

For more details or to discuss how the 20/20 Trust could work with you to include digital literacy in your programmes, please contact

Laurence Zwimpfer
National Operations & Development Manager
027 430 6737


Sue West
Auckland Area Manager, 20/20 Trust
027 5469378

To find out more about ACE Aotearoa, the national organisation for the NZ Adult and Community Education sector, please visit