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Goodhew: SeniorNet

Jo Goodhew

14 APRIL, 2014

Speech: SeniorNet

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

Thank you so much for having me here this evening and thank you, Grant, for introducing me.

I would like to also acknowledge Selwyn Mayor Kelvin Coe, and Ray MacDonald, Chair of the SeniorNet Federation.

It is fantastic to see so many people here today - so many people who are embracing the ever-changing range of technologies, and teaching others to embrace them also.

You are all right at the frontier of this change, working as you do in the SeniorNet Learning Centres around the country.

Digital technology is now very much a part of our everyday lives.

It seems like now nearly everything is done via the internet.

Email or instant messages are sent in a split second and the world’s information is at our fingertips.

The request to speak to you came by email.

My plane tickets were booked online, and I could check in before going to the airport via the airline’s website or use the app on my Iphone.

All this is enormously convenient, but I won’t try to tell you that it’s always easy learning about new technologies and using them to their full advantage.

I recently joined Twitter – and I can tell you that has been a learning curve!

Your messages have to be short, only 140 characters – which is never easy for a politician.

Then I got my account hacked.

A couple of messages disappeared.

And for a while there I couldn’t send photos.

But, touch wood things are back on track now and running smoothly now.

Just like any new technology it’s just taken me a bit of time to get my head around it.

Using technology is usually something we have to sit down and learn, and for many of us it’s been a long time since we were in a classroom.

It can be a daunting task at first.

Especially if your tutor is some young thing who could use an iPad before a knife and fork.

But, you’re never really too old to learn a new trick.

Henry Ford once said “Anyone who stops learning is old – anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Age is no barrier to learning something new – and I’m sure we all know that new skills keep our brains sharp.

I admire so much the work you all do in encouraging your members to embrace the benefits of technology, rather than being afraid of it.

I acknowledge that most of that work is done on a voluntary basis, and as the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, I thank you for your time and energy.

As Minister for Senior Citizens, my priority is to enhance the lives of older New Zealanders.

Nowadays digital technology is a large part of that – particularly, but not only, in the role it plays in allowing older New Zealanders to stay connected.

By “connected” I mean in touch with their families, communities, business and Government.

An Age Concern Canterbury report suggests that around 10 per cent of older New Zealanders are affected by social isolation.

These days families tend to live further away from each other and life just seems to be busier than ever.

Technology makes keeping in touch over distance much easier because there are so many ways we can reach out to each other.

Whether by email, text or instant messaging, Skype, Facebook - there are very few places on Earth where we can’t be reached via the internet.

Facebook might feel like it’s for the kids but in fact the fastest growing segment of people using social media are in fact people aged over 65 and over.

Encouraging older people to stay plugged into this vast and powerful network is one of the ways we can reduce social isolation.

For those of you with Grandchildren, many preschools now use online platforms that let them upload photos and stories of what children are doing during the day.

Family and friends who are approved to see these are then sent an email notification – they can log in and keep up with what their kids or grandkids are up to.

It’s a quick, secure, and effective way to share in a child’s learning – and it’s a sure-fire way to make a parent or grandparent smile as they go about their day.

Communicating with government is also a lot easier as we increasingly move to a digital way of working.

This government has a set of Better Public Services targets which aim to improve outcomes for New Zealanders in a number of areas.

One of these areas is improving the public’s interaction with government.

Our goal is that by 2017, 70 per cent of New Zealander’s most common transactions with government will be digital.

Many of those transactions affect older New Zealanders – I’d like to run though some of what we’re doing:

Online applications for NZ Super – currently only 35 per cent of NZ Super applications are done online.

The Ministry of Social Development is working to improve access to this online function, as well as others, including allowing people to manage their personal information online.

Ask-a-Question – the Ask-a-Question tool on the Senior Services’ pages of the Ministry of Social Development website means visitors can search for information and ask questions – last year this tool was used by 56-thousand people, a massive increase since 2012 where there were just 13-thousand users.

SuperGold Card e-newsletter – we send a quarterly SuperGold card e-newsletter to cardholders with an email address – this is currently around 150-thousand people.

This includes special offers, as well as news and other items older people might be interested in.

SuperGold Card online directory – there’s also an enhanced online directory that makes it easier for SuperGold cardholders to search, organise and print out information on discounts.

SuperGold Card computer/electronic discounts – cost can be another barrier to using technology, so we’ve worked with retailers such as Noel Leeming, Smiths City and DTR to offer SuperGold cardholders discounts on computer and phone purchases, repairs and rentals.

We’re beefing up security through RealMe which is a new secure way for New Zealanders to access services online.

All government departments will be moving to RealMe so only one login will be needed for all government services.

You need to have email and a mobile phone for this, so you can see how important working with our retail partners and SeniorNet is to get older people using technology.

Looking at the wider digital context, the Government is also very busy with the Ultra-Fast Broadband rollout, and the Rural Broadband Initiative.

Together the two initiatives will bring faster broadband to just shy of 98 per cent of New Zealanders – including 252-thousand rural households – saving them all time and money.

Organisations like SeniorNet are vital to the Government as we seek to support older New Zealanders to become more tech savvy.

I enjoy a close working relationship with Grant and the team.

He regularly sends me SeniorNet submissions for my information, and I very much enjoyed going to your 20th anniversary celebrations almost two years ago.

As you likely know, Grant helped start the first Learning Centre here – now there are 87 throughout New Zealand, with 17-thousand members and 700 volunteer tutors.

SeniorNet is also working with my Volunteer Community Co-ordinators, or VCCs.

VCCs are a vital link between government and older people in the community.

Not only do they provide us with advice and guidance on ensuring our policies and programmes fit the bill for older New Zealanders, they are out and about in the community ensuring older people get the help they need.

For example Lesley Gray, our VCC in Invercargill, has SeniorNet as her nominating organisation.

While another of our VCCs - Malia Hamani – is the general manager of Treasuring Older Adults, and was instrumental in helping set up the first Pacific SeniorNet learning centre in Otahuhu.

Grant has spoken to the VCCs a couple of times and they say they felt inspired by what he had to say – basically, he gave them confidence that using new technology is not beyond their capabilities.

The VCCs were all presented with a SeniorNet membership and they are now, doubtless, spreading the word about SeniorNet among their contacts.

We are living in exciting times.

New developments in technology – especially in telecommunications – are making our day-to-day living much easier, once we get over any initial anxiousness.

All of you at SeniorNet play such a vital role in making older New Zealanders feel more comfortable around technology – and in doing so you’ve created a strong community among your own members.

You’re doing a fantastic job and I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so – your list of corporate supporters is evidence!

Congratulations on your new relationship with Westpac.

Thank you.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

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