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Helping to bridge the digital divide

In New Zealand’s race to be technological leader, the digital divide continues to grow. Separating those who have digital knowledge and access, with those who don’t.

You can shop, bank and even update your vehicle registration and renew your passport online – key services all adapting in favour of an online system.

Those without access to this technology, or the digital skills needed to use it, are finding themselves left behind and abandoned. A problem that community organisation TechMate is helping to solve.

TechMate is a non-profit working to embed ICT skills within the community and support people in using digital technology in their daily lives.   It is based in Addington but does a lot of work in Christchurch East and have a strong volunteering base.

The Christchurch-based charity offers group training sessions and one-on-one learning programmes, as well as providing access to computers and laptops, printing services, computer repairs and assistance with creating CV’s and cover letters.

TechMate Chair Gary Cross says they are focussed on promoting a culture of inclusion and removing barriers for people in their personal and professional lives.

 “Technology can seem really daunting if you’re an experience user. We’re trying to make it easier and kind of hold people’s hands through the process, so that they see it’s not that difficult and they can do it.”

“Whether it’s learning to use a computer, smartphone or tablet for the first time, or simply needing to ask questions about different pieces of technology – that’s why we’re here.”

Mr Cross says the Rātā Foundation are a crucial supporter of their programmes at TechMate.

“Funding from Rātā helps us be able to do what we do. Without their support we wouldn’t be able to help as many people as we have.”

TechMate has also partnered with Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA) to provide free modems and low-cost internet for people in Christchurch with no broadband internet.

Community Liaison Josh Harris says at Techmate “We’re really focussed on groups of people who are most at risk of digital exclusion, such as older people, people with disabilities, and Māori and Pasifika youth.”

“We know that access to technology is essential in today’s world. We want to drive change and create a community where everyone can learn basic digital skills – leaving no one behind.”

During last year’s lockdown TechMate was still able to operate remotely and deliver their Kids’ Club after-school programme and other groups online.

Rātā Foundation Chief Executive Leighton Evans says “in this day and age everybody should have access to digital technology; the fact that this is not always the case is fundamentally wrong.”

“Having an organisation like TechMate can be a game-changer for many people looking to develop new technology skills and confidence, particularly those that may face socio-economic barriers.”