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Tackling Pasifika Mental Health Inequities Through Digital Inclusion

A collaboration of Pasifika organisations, led by Le Va, has taken steps to help ensure members of the Pasifika community are not left behind in our digital world.

As more parts of life become heavily reliant on digital forms of communication, access to reliable and accurate information is crucial.

For Le Va CEO Denise Kingi-‘Ulu’ave, tackling the digital divide is close to the NGO’s heart of leaving no-one behind and helping Pasifika families and communities unleash their full potential.

She said many Pasifika do not have access to the internet, data or smartphones. And it’s not just the elderly.

"During our first Covid-19 lockdown and changing alert levels, there was heightened anxiety, worry and fear gnawing at our people. That was exacerbated by the barriers we face in accessing up-to-date official information on what was happening, how to stay safe and where to get help."

With funding from the Ministry of Health, Le Va is collaborating with Pasifika community services to address the gaps to access, affordability and digital literacy.

In their dialogue with community and local services, many who did have devices could not afford data or were on a plan that could not meet the needs of the family, particularly for education.

"It can be very hard for people to access information," says Denise. "People found themselves shut in their homes, socially isolated and not knowing what was happening in the outside world."

In partnership with South Waikato Pacific Islands Community Services Trust, Le Va’s Digital Inclusion programme was piloted at Tokoroa’s local library in December. Smartphones and tablets were provided to members of the community identified to be in need, and customised 10-week workshops helped those who had never used a device set up and go digital.

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The results have been promising in addressing not just the digital but also the intergenerational divide.

"When I was asked to be part of the programme so that I can connect with our people, not just in Tokoroa, but right around the country, I was so happy!" says an elderly gentleman. "Pasifika culture is embedded in connectedness and community. We understand that many things can drive generations apart, but technology doesn’t have to be one of them," Denise says.

Due to the overwhelming success of the programme, it is now being rolled out nationwide to rural areas with Pasifika communities.

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