Rangatahi helps kaumātua bridge digital divide

On the northern side of the Otago Peninsula, near Ōtākou Marae lives Tia Taiaroa, a recent university graduate who has been supporting kaumātua to take their first steps into the digital world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Published: Rāhina, 25 Haratua, 2020 | Monday, 25 May 2020

Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou acted quickly by successfully applying for funding from Te Puni Kōkiri to assist with their COVID-19 community response and to ensure their kaumātua were well looked after as the seriousness of the pandemic grew. Taua and Pōua (Kuia and Koro) were contacted regularly by rūnaka members for welfare checks. It was not long before they identified a bit of a technical trip-up - kaumātua needed help with technology and ordering kai online.

This was when Tia was able to put her tech-savvy skills to the test by teaching kaumātua how to navigate the online shopping world.

“This was all before lockdown so I was able to go round to their whare, help whānau set up online accounts and talk them through the process of online grocery shopping”, she says.

“For some kaumātua it was the first time using their debit cards. The look on their faces when they learnt you could search up and order anything on the online grocery store was amazing and made it all worthwhile”.

Digital skills are critical for kaumātua because many modern daily activities require interaction with technology such as shopping, banking, access to public services and communication. But it was clear that although many households had the equipment, some kaumātua did not know how to operate it.

Tia understood that kaumātua value their independence so she made sure they knew how to order their weekly shops online and could set up ‘click and collect’ options that made it easy to fit in with their daily schedules.

Tia agrees digital technologies should not be barriers for kaumātua to enjoy a rich and varied quality of life. She is only too happy to be part of enabling Taua and Pōua to make full use of them. 

As well as sharing her tech skills, in the lead up to the lockdown Tia had volunteered her time to make sure whānau were well prepared before going into isolation.

Early on she helped write and distribute a pānui for whānau to promote hygiene, stress the seriousness of the pandemic and advise them to limit their social interactions. At the time some whānau reported not understanding the technical language of the pandemic and public health messages so clear communication was vital when communities were talking with their own whānau.

Once the alert levels were introduced the rūnanga also asked Tia to sit in on the Civil Defence hui. She took notes to see how the information gathered from this experience could be used to help her marae and rūnanga.

Tia is an excellent example of how people have contributed their time and skill to awhi and protect their communities from the COVID-19 pandemic so they remain resilient and in this case, confident participants in the digital world.