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Published Tuesday 26 Jul 2022


One of the big issues to face the telco sector that bubbled up during COVID lockdowns is the question of digital equity. In a world where telecommunication is as vital a utility as water or electricity, how do we make sure everyone can get online to access the services they need?

 

It’s a question that has been around for many years in one form or another. We used to call it the “digital divide” and largely it was about rural connectivity, making sure those living in remote parts of New Zealand didn’t get left behind. The Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) was developed to ensure that as we upgrade the networks in the towns and cities, rural New Zealand was not excluded.  As a result, we’ve seen more than 500 cell sites delivering service to over 30,000 rural homes and businesses. There’s more to do, but with broadband now available to 99% of Kiwis, attention can turn to making sure everyone can connect to the services they want.

For some, that will simply be a voice service that allows calls to be made from what looks like a landline. The voice service will probably be delivered over the internet, but for the customer it’s just like it used to be: a voice call made using a telephone.

For others, it’s about retaining service even when they’re off work due to illness or injury. Vulnerable customers are supported to ensure that if they need to call for help, they can. 

But for yet more, the decision about whether or not to have a broadband account is a financial one, based on juggling a number of factors including rent, food, fuel and more.

 For all our customers, one thing remains consistent across all channels and all usage types. It’s the need for the internet to be a safe space for its users, no matter how experienced they are, or how little they use the capability.

That’s why we’re pleased to support NetSafe’s Netsafety week, which aims to support and educate customers about online safety.

This year the theme is “Diversity Matters” and has the aim of helping promote respect and understanding among different communities. There are a series of events around the country that look at these issues from different points of view and of course ongoing support all year round for customers who are concerned about cyber bullying, scams and online abuse.

Now we’ve got a network that covers so many people, it’s imperative we work together to ensure it’s a safe and positive space for all. People will then feel empowered to take the opportunities offered to them through technology. We have a chance to have our most inclusive and diverse conversations yet. Let’s not shy away from the opportunity, and get involved in the kōrero.