Interview: the digital divide and inequality

This morning on Newshub Nation:  Tech entrepreneur Derek Handley talks to Lisa Owen about the digital divide, and how technology could be increasing inequality.

InternetNZ: NZ’s digital divide now on display

InternetNZ has teamed up with the 20/20 Trust to build an interactive map called the Digital Divide Map – which shows the different digital divides facing New Zealanders and their communities.

You can see Internet infrastructure access, digital skill gaps and socioeconomic divides broken down by area units across New Zealand.

InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter says it’s important that people are aware of the digital divides in New Zealand.

“Some people don’t have access to the Internet, some are not skilled enough to use it and some cannot afford an Internet connection.

“This is something that we want to see fixed. The Internet has so many benefits for us all and no New Zealander should be denied the potential that the Internet offers us,” says Carter.

The purpose of the map is to help identify these divides, understand them, and therefore help local, regional and national decision makers address the divides.

The map also pinpoints known digital inclusion projects and local community resources to address digital skill gaps. We hope that by sharing these digital inclusion projects and resources, they can act as models and inspiration for other areas.

The Digital Divide map.

On Handley two weeks ago: Digital divide holding back New Zealand – tech entrepreneur

In its report Solving Digital Divides Together, InternetNZ claims that “infrastructure access is no longer the primary access issue for New Zealanders. 93% of Kiwis tell us they have the Internet.

in a TechWeek speech earlier this week Derek Handley, whose roles include Adjunct Executive Professor at AUT, board member at SkyTV, and Chief Innovation Officer at a New York-based start-up studio Human Ventures, said New Zealand will fail to become a leading digital nation if it doesn’t address the number of children without internet access in their homes.

During a visit to the Otara Library in Manukau he discovered that the most popular attendance time was directly after school, so that the students could use the library’s computers and internet.

“Many of them (students) use cheap Android phones without data plans, to connect to WiFi – to search, type up essays and assignments, on their tiny screens,” he says. “Many of the homes they go back to might have only a handful of books. In their homes, they are barely connected to the present – let alone the future.”

Handley contrasted that experience with his own five-year-old son, whom he says is “digitally roaming every day creatively and in his own way”.

“If we believe, as I do and I have witnessed, that the internet and a tablet accelerates the learning and discovery of a young child, orders of magnitude beyond what a simple book can – we have on one hand a child growing

The Government also pledged to create a National Chief Technology Officer and is currently recruiting again for the role, following a failed attempt earlier this year. While Handley positively referenced the CTO role in his speech, he later told Computerworld that he has not put his hand up, noting that he is still living in New York.

Tech Entrepreneur Derek Handley “For the last couple of decades, clearly, no government authentically, genuinely committed to creating a pathway for a digital or innovative technology-oriented nation.”

“There are so many ideas and services and concepts that should exist in New Zealand — that we should be leading — that we’re not.”

… says we need to ensure access to internet in the same way we ensure access to water in order to close ‘the digital divide’

…on the Government’s hunt for a Chief Technology Officer – “The fact that it even exists, the fact that it will be working with the Prime Minister and the Minister, to me, is a symbol and a signal that we get it and that it’s important.”

He sort of sound like he could be interested in the job, saying ‘I’m working in the US’ but intends coming back to New Zealand soon.

He could be a good fit for the job, but he expressed no specific ideas on how to ensure the people with none or little online access could join the electronic revolution.

Just like it is difficult to force some people to read and write (or some families to support and encourage education), you can’t make people use the Internet if they don’t want to.


Leave a comment


  1. Blazer

     /  9th June 2018

    Handley likes the sound of his own voice.
    Should have asked him about his wonderful ramp on Snaack media…shareholders not a happy…bunch.

  2. PartisanZ

     /  9th June 2018

    When he “says we need to ensure access to internet in the same way we ensure access to water in order to close ‘the digital divide’”, Handley clearly relates “closing the digital divide” to government action …

    Sounds dangerously ‘socialist’?

    I agree. A ‘tertiary phase’ society should provide tertiary ‘rights’ to its citizens.

    But if the over-arching assumption (or transumption) requires the inevitable outcome be “a digital or innovative technology-oriented nation”, then the idea is, in reality, dangerously capitalist-corporate-political …

    A child is not necessarily “growing” if an inappropriately large amount of or their entire time and attention is focused on a screen …

    We must ask what this child is growing towards? … What this child is becoming?

    • PartisanZ

       /  9th June 2018

      We might investigate whether or not the digital universe has a tendency to trap ‘the masses’ on Levels 1 & 2 of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs … as I feel sure the neoliberal poli-socio-economic paradigm is designed to do.

      • Gezza

         /  9th June 2018

        And then what?

        • PartisanZ

           /  9th June 2018

          Good question …

          Ummm … Devolution going forward … ?

          A.D. ……….. Algorithmic Devolution

  3. sorethumb

     /  9th June 2018

    they are trying to cut down on free speech; we could have instant feedback like an animal’s nervous system. Instead our nervous system is truncated through the committee.

    • PartisanZ

       /  9th June 2018

      An extraordinary conclusion to draw from the above sorethumb …

      Is that what Handley means by contrasting the experience of kids in South Auckland with “the experience with his own five-year-old son, whom he says is “digitally roaming every day creatively and in his own way”” … ?

  4. Gezza

     /  9th June 2018

    Whatever. There’s knowledge wisdom lies crap games and smut on the internet. Once people get access to it, what they go for and how much of it is up to them. The best you can do is hope your kids get more positive stuff

    • PartisanZ

       /  9th June 2018

      Nah, sorry, as a society we don’t leave children to “what they go for and how much of it is up to them” …

      We provide guidance … currently and partially in the fairly draconian form of ‘school’ …

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  9th June 2018

        Well, yes. How would children know what to look for if there weren’t adults to tell them what they are not allowed?

      • Gezza

         /  9th June 2018

        Most kids get that guidance, but kids have always got into mischief when mum & /or dad aren’t looking, so don’t kid yourself too much. You can only do so much to control what kids view on the internet once they get internet savvy. What parents or adults think is appropriate or inappropriate for children can differ quite widely, & kids are designed to be curious, even natures bird & animals’ kids. I’m happy where schools try & help out with that part of the ‘stay safe’ education process.

  5. David

     /  10th June 2018

    “Derek Handley, whose roles include Adjunct Executive Professor at AUT, board member at SkyTV, and Chief Innovation Officer at a New York-based start-up studio Human Ventures”

    Given this CV I wonder why he has not started a foundation and started to address the issue directly, rather than simply demanding action from ‘others’?

  6. Smart phones don’t cut it for school work. Libraries help, but affordable home internet is key.

    Here’s a couple of things that help:

    Computers in Homes has helped 19,000 families with school children, getting digital skills, PC/ChromeBook, and subsidised internet into their homes. The programme is life-changing for many, proven effective, and won many awards. Now it’s waits renewal of resourcing.

    Spark Jump prepay wireless internet connection makes internet affordable ($10 month) for other families. This gives 30GB before top-up, enough for general use but not for streaming video and audio. With the Spark Foundation and local partners, we’re rolling out in 90 locations – in another 3 libraries today.

    The 20/20 Trust initiates, leads and helps in these and more digital inclusion programmes, in partnership with many other organisations, including InternetNZ. We’ve made a difference, but resourcing – especially funding – means we haven’t helped nearly as many as we wish.

    If you want to help, contact us through


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