New BNZ research has shown soaring use of the internet throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, while more than two-thirds of New Zealanders increased their digital skills over this time, concern is growing for the 700,000 people at risk of being left behind because they lack essential digital skills.
Digital skills assume increasing importance for key business areas such as those in the construction industry.
BNZ chief economist Paul Conway says the lack of digital skills for such a significant number of New Zealanders risks holding the country back from the promise of a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
“The most concerning aspect of this research is that New Zealanders with low digital skills are often already disadvantaged in our society,” Conway says.
“For example, around 30% of people with low levels of education or low incomes are found to lack essential digital skills.
“By not urgently addressing this digital divide, we face the threat of entrenched inequity as these people become less able to engage with society and the economy.
“This risk will only worsen as the digital transformation picks up pace, with more of the economy, social services, and our lives in general shifting online.”
Conway says the vast reach of the private sector means it too needs to be doing more to help lift the digital skills of New Zealanders. For example, employers have an opportunity to support their employees in developing their digital skills.
The private sector can also use its strong market networks to reach more people, helping improve their customers’ skills along the way, he says.