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The people we heard from in this research affirmed what previous research had shown, that having access to affordable and accessible digital devices and services at a time and place convenient to them, as well as the motivation, skills, and trust to use the Internet to pursue and realise meaningful social and economic outcomes, is essential to social inclusion.

They also told us that losing access can have a disproportionately harmful impact on people who are already experiencing social exclusion in other ways.

Becoming disconnected can have a devastating impact on people going through times of particular vulnerability or instability. A woman leaving a violent relationship, for example, or a young person leaving home without any family support.

People outlined a range of barriers to digital inclusion, including cost barriers, a range of barriers to physical access, low motivation and resilience to setbacks, mixed levels of skills, a lack of trust or safety online and insufficient capacity.

While most of this was consistent with research in other countries, the conversations in this project have given us a more nuanced and detailed picture of how a variety of different social and economic factors can act together to impact a person’s digital inclusion at different times throughout their life, and how becoming disconnected can, in turn, exacerbate existing problems.

The people we heard from made suggestions for improving digital inclusion in New Zealand ranging from changes in national policies through to changes in parental practice. Here are some of the key suggestions for each sector.