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Bridging the digital divide

Cathy Hardinge hopes to help bridge the digital divide in Wairarapa. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN



As technology advances, New Zealand’s digital divide also grows, isolating older generations.

The issue has been put in the “too hard basket” for too long, according to Unitec Masters student Cathy Hardinge who plans to make a difference in Wairarapa.

Hardinge, based in Wellington hopes to help seniors with technology as part of her Masters programme in future technologies.

She chose to focus on Wairarapa because of her connections to the region and knowing it has the second largest senior population in New Zealand.

“There’s definitely a digital divide which is disadvantaging seniors. Digital skills are life skills today” she told the Wairarapa Midweek.

“I want to make a positive impact in this area, so I decided to work at a community level and a government level.”

After meeting with former Masterton mayor Bob Francis, Hardinge got straight into her research and was introduced to various retirement homes and Wairarapa seniors.

“I’ve made many cakes, have come over here and just chatted with seniors over cups of tea,” she said.

There were four main barriers preventing seniors from embracing technology to its fullest extent, she said.

“The greatest barrier is knowledge and skills.

“The second one is technology support right when seniors need it, and for less cost. The others included psychological barriers and accessibility.

“Seniors are terrified that a lot of services especially government services are going online.”

“Putting all those barriers together it’s a huge issue.”

Hardinge ran a co-design session with Wairarapa stakeholders last Friday to discuss community solutions to be collectively built to support Wairarapa’s seniors.

“We had a really good turnout at the meeting.

“There was so much diversity in the room and we came up with some great community ideas.

“The next step is for us to form a working group to develop these ideas.

“I will also take Wairarapa’s solutions to Claire Curran, Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media because Curran says she will support efforts to address the digital divide which has yet to be addressed in New Zealand.

“Curran also claims that the prime minister Adern commits to close the gap by 2020.

“I think Wairarapa can do great things in this area.”

If you are interested or want to get involved with this project, contact Hardinge on [email protected].


  1. Cathy I have also been working in this area and submitted proposals to improve the digital skills of the elderly. Perhaps we should meet.
    Ann Rainford 06 304 9960

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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