This post is the third of a series on digital equity. It considers how we might use the model of digital equity created in the first of the digital equity series to identify what was happening in the digital ecosystem.
Unless more of us are willing to do the deep work, despite good intentions, the impact will be continued system “change” that doesn’t actually change systems, and lost opportunities for more trusting and impactful collaboration across difference. -Leach & Petty
The model developed in the first of these digital equity posts combined the digital inclusion elements of motivation, access, skills and trust (MAST) with the deep equity elements of individual, interpersonal, organisation and society. It placed community, context and culture at the heart.
I have been wondering how this model might be used to map the digital equity environment in order to identify what is happening in the local ecosystem. Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch already has a network of over 70 people who are interested in the digital equity space. By mapping key initiatives we might be able to identify gaps, look for synergies and deepen conversations. This moves beyond some of the excellent commentary already happening in spaces such as the school system to consider the wider digital equity space.
One way of mapping could look something like this:
This could include local initiatives but also tag wider initiatives that impact individuals, communities, organisations and systems locally. Of course some examples may not fit neatly into one box, but that is an important part of the conversation of influence and impact.
Digital Equity in Action
What would happen if we explored some of the initiatives happening in our ecosystem and considered where they might fit, all the time reflecting back on all the parts of the system?
In the news recently is one excellent example of a project seeking to narrow the digital divide. Recycle a Device (RAD) is an Aotearoa initiative which matches those who need a laptop with a donated and refurbished device. It also teaches high school students in-demand tech engineering skills to refurbish the laptops, and then work with community groups to get them into the hands of ākonga (students) and rangatahi (young people) who need them. RAD is making a huge contribution in growing the individual skills of rangatahi, giving access to individuals and also growing organisational/school motivation to provide meaningful opportunities for students to connect with authentic work, business opportunities and tech sector needs.
Ara Connect Computing for Free programme has four community hubs that bring a range of free and low-cost courses to neighbourhoods across the Canterbury region. These focus on growing the skills of individuals. The Greater Christchurch Schools’ Network (GCSN) supports schools and educators to grow skills in digital technologies – organisational change. It also works with the system to research the digital divide and to improve access by offering Free WiFi to students and their families with the ConnectEd Aranui project.
The Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust (ŌCHT) has a systems approach to digital equity by employing digital coaching advisors. This example ticks a lot of boxes in the grid above!
What we learn will help our digital coaching advisor build a new education service that’ll help people confidently use their devices and make the most of the online world. It’ll also help us know how many people will want to join the free broadband internet service we hope to deliver in partnership with Christchurch’s fibre provider, Enable. –Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust
There are many examples that I could draw on, each mapping in different ways to the grid above. I’d love you to add your initiatives into the comments, or connect with me to make sure we have as wide a view as possible of the Ōtautahi initiatives. Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch has digital equity as one of its workstreams and has been involved in local conversations for some time.
A National Perspective
Nationally the newly formed Digital Equity Coalition Aotearoa (DECA) has hosted a two hour online lockdown emergency response hui to share what was happening across Aotearoa and discuss how we might work together. This systems approach seeks to join the dots, to combine digital equity with deep equity and recognise that context remains critical.
There is pressure to provide access schools with devices and internet and many stories shared the negative impact the digital device was having on learning. Even when devices are in the home one device may need to serve the needs of 5-10 people. Or a device comes to a home but families don’t have the motivation, skills or trust to maximise its use. There were stories of the digital divide reducing household access to basic food and health needs. Some of the highest users of government services have the least access. There were stories of the loneliness of our senior citizens and the lack of trust in agencies.
Systems change is complex work. While I agree that government departments have a major role to play, each of the partners in deep equity is fundamental for the critical changes needed. If we want to have digitally capable citizens, to reduce the tech skills gap and to have future prepared workers we need to focus on digital equity first – and as a team of five million.
Digital equity does not exist in a void.
Equity is everyone’s job.
When our most vulnerable thrive we all thrive.