New Zealand

Citizens Advice Bureau lends a hand as people struggle with govt's online services

09:12 am on 27 February 2020

Too many people are being left behind as more and more government agencies shift their services online, according to a new report from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

A range of barriers to getting online to access government services exist, the Citizens Advice Bureau says. Photo: 123RF

Over a three-month period last year, the organisation said it saw more than 4000 clients who needed help accessing services online.

Its analysis showed that those people came from a range of different age groups, challenging the assumption that it was mainly older people who struggled with digital technology.

Māori and Pacific people were disproportionately disadvantaged.

Kerry Dalton. Photo: Citizens Advice Bureau

Citizens Advice Bureau chief executive Kerry Dalton said immigration, citizenship and passport services were among those shifting wholly online.

There were a range of barriers to getting online to access government services - and it was not just about lacking access to a computer and the internet, she said.

"There's issues of digital literacy, there's financial barriers, not being able to afford data, there's language, sometimes disability as well, and sometimes it's because people have a fear of putting their personal details online," Dalton said.

There was a need to provide services both online and offline.

"There needs to be a commitment to delivering public services in ways that people need them and without it being too difficult for them," Dalton said.

That could include face-to-face or phone services, as well as options to request paper forms or use different payment methods.

The Citizens Advice Bureau said other options to increase digital inclusion could include ensuring free access to computers, printers and scanners in the community, and providing free language assistance.