Barriers to access: skills 

For the purposes of this research we focused on the following digital skills:

  • getting online (e.g. getting connected to the Internet and finding your way to what you want)

  • creating content (e.g. writing an email or putting videos or photos online)

  • solving problems online (e.g. what do you do if you can’t get a webpage or file to open?)

  • staying safe (e.g. protecting your identity and private information).

Overall, the participants in this research rated themselves fairly highly on most digital skills, although in keeping with their comments about online safety and trust mentioned above, they tended to give themselves lower rating for their skills in keeping safe online.

In many groups participants also gave a lower rating for content creation skills, and when probed on this, the reason given was generally a low level of literacy rather than specific digital  skills.

Man with news on his iPad questioning how do we know real from fake.

“Yeah, my brother, he doesn’t really read.” – Teen parent, Kawerau

“Huge literacy issues. I mean for instance we work with a local fishing school. Students from all over come to a residential-based school. They can all use a computer but most can’t spell or write. They all know how to turn on a computer, go to YouTube. That’s the first thing they all want to do. ‘Can we go to Facebook?’ But basic typing skills? We’ve lost that. We’re losing it very quickly” – Community education coordinator, Westport

The same person expressed concern that young people didn’t see basic literacy as being important, because she believed it was affecting their job prospects.

“Hugely. Most employers expect reasonable literacy skills. Even when we are doing CV classes, I try to support them to write it rather than expecting them to write it themselves because their literacy skills coming from school are - I hate to say it - quite bad.” – Community education coordinator, Westport

In this interview and in other discussions, people pointed out that basic literacy was needed to navigate official websites, and that this wasn’t always something they or their peers were able to do.

“Being able to read those questions. They’ll ask me ‘What does a full name mean? What is DOB?’ We take it for granted. Young people don’t have a clue.” – Community education coordinator, Westport

It is worth noting that although a lack of skills was not often identified as one of the main barriers to digital inclusion, participants nonetheless often suggested education or training as a solution to digital exclusion. Reasons for this mismatch between the assessment of the problem and the proposed solutions are considered and discussed in the section on systems analysis below.

It is also worth pointing out that we didn’t test the participants on any of these skills, so this is a reflection of how they rate their own skills. In some instances the discussions did reveal that where participants rated themselves highly on a skill (e.g. distinguishing between good and poor quality information online), when asked to give examples of the skill, they offered either a fairly basic understanding of the issue, or, in some cases, an inaccurate belief.

Some of the younger participants rated their parents, and especially their grandparents, as having less skills in all four of these areas.

“Yeah, that [low score on basic skills] is my nan. My nan is low on all of these. She doesn’t like the Internet because she knows we’ll go silly.” – Teen parent, Kawerau

“My nanna uses it for the pokies. She’s like ‘How do you turn the thing on? The thing!’ She goes, ‘How come it’s not working? I say, ‘We’ve got no Internet’. She says ‘What’s the Internet?” – Teen parent, Kawerau