Fund bridges digital divide for Māori and regions

Published: Oct 7, 2020

Tagged with:

  • News and announcements
  • Gisborne/Tairāwhiti
  • Hawke's Bay

The drive to improve digital access for Māori and regions throughout the country is continuing to receive Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) backing, with another three projects being approved.

A shot of hands on a laptop at a cafe table. A coffee is in the foreground.

Funding regional digital hubs is part of a government drive to boost digital access, and support jobs and skills development in provincial and rural areas.

The plan is part of the government drive to improve digital accessibility in provincial and rural New Zealand to support jobs and skills development, at the same time as ensuring all kiwis are socially included.

Marae Digital Connectivity and the development of Regional Digital Hubs are key parts of this initiative.

The latest funding includes backing for a nationwide project by Te Whakaruruhau o Ngā Reo Irirangi Māori Incorporated, which represents the network of 21 iwi radio stations spread from Kaitaia to Bluff.

Te Whakaruruhau is receiving a grant of up to $100,000 to develop a "Marae Wi-Fi Digital Tool Kit" to deliver training material through workshops with marae across New Zealand, as part of the Marae Digital Connectivity programme.

This connectivity will help whānau, hapū and iwi to better access the key services and skills necessary to improve their economic participation and increase the productivity of local and emerging business ventures. It will also provide alternative ways for rangatahi and whānau to learn modern workforce skills.

Supporting business development is also the focus of another project receiving PGF funding. Waihorokaka Limited will receive a $400,000 grant to develop the Ruatoria Business Hot Desk Hub. 

The hub will provide the local business community with technology and digital infrastructure that otherwise would not be available, at the same time as offering a space for people and businesses to collaborate. 

All services at the hub will be free for the local community, including wifi, printing, access to devices and training opportunities. Once it is up and running, the business hub is expected to improve education and employment outcomes in the Ruatoria area.

Another regional digital hub, this time in the Central Hawke’s Bay town of Waipukurau, is also receiving a $400,000 PGF grant. The hub will improve locals' accessiblity to IT services, particularly local businesses.

It will also accommodate small to medium enterprises, home based, start-up business and the self-employed, while providing the district with its first publicly available co-working space.

Accommodating locals’ ability to access the hub’s digital capability for personal use is also important because at the moment, the Waipukarau area has limited digital connectivity. Significant parts of the district have no cell phone coverage and internet connections are unreliable.

The last census revealed 90 households had no access to telecommunication systems of any sort, 1,230 households had no cellphone access and 1,500 households had no internet access.