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Public libraries a solution to the Digital Divide

Public libraries a solution to the Digital Divide

The 2013 World Internet Project New Zealand (WIPNZ) Report identifies a significant number of New Zealanders with no or limited access to the web.

The internet is now a necessity for New Zealanders accessing services, information and participating in our communities. Public Libraries have a vital role to play in ensuring that all New Zealanders can access the web and participate fully in the digital world.

WIPNZ (part of the World Internet Project) found that among households with incomes of less than $35,000, 28 percent had low or no use of the web. Older New Zealanders, Māori, Pacific, small towns and rural communities were most affected by a lack of access.

Public libraries provide a lifeline to these households by providing free or low cost internet access to all members of the community. 95% of public libraries in New Zealand offer some free internet access and support their customers in its use. Skilled library information specialists and other staff can support new internet users in accessing the services they need and navigating the world wide web.

Public Libraries of New Zealand chair elect Glen Walker said, “Local councils and the public libraries they provide are a key tool in tackling the digital divide. We cannot afford for part of our communities to have unequal access to information and opportunities. Libraries are vital for ensuring that the 1 in 4 low income New Zealand households who are currently non-users of the web can easily access the resources they need.”

“Online engagement with government and other services is fast becoming a necessity. All New Zealanders need to be able to engage with the services they need and public libraries provide the tools and support for everyone to do that – even first time users.”

In the year to 30 June 2013, almost 2,000 public internet terminals in 288 public libraries provided over 7 million internet sessions. A further 15 million wifi sessions were used in public libraries on customers’ own mobile devices.

Almost all New Zealand libraries provide free internet access, a majority also offering Wifi services alongside their bookable computers. Public internet access in public libraries is supported by local councils with half of New Zealand libraries providing free internet access through a partnership with the National Library.

The Government ICT Strategy and Action Plan to 2017 commits government agencies to a world that is “digital by default”. Enabling all New Zealanders to have the tools and skills to access these online services is a priority.


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