Making a Difference Spotlight Digital Future Aotearoa on the NZ Compare Website
Nov 30, 2023

NZ Compare is proud to announce Digital Future Aotearoa as a finalist in the Making a Difference Award.

NZ Compare’s Annual Awards celebrates excellence and innovation in New Zealand across a range of telecommunications, utilities and finance industries. Digital Future Aotearoa has been selected as a finalist for NZ Compare’s Making a Difference Award. This award acknowledges the pioneers and leaders who are making a positive change in communities and inspiring others to follow their example. It is a tough time for Kiwis. So it is important that we celebrate those who are making steps to help communities and individuals. Digital Future Aotearoa is making a difference in the lives of New Zealand youth – rangatahi – by empowering them and equipping them for the sometimes intimidating digital world. 

Who is Digital Future Aotearoa?

Digital Future Aotearoa (DFA) is a not-for-profit organisation that connects communities and empowers rangatahi in a digital world. They are focused on establishing and maintaining equitable outcomes for all New Zealanders by creating programs that develop participants' skills in coding, gaming, problem solving, teamwork, project management, software and hardware. They do this in facilitating access to devices and skills through a community-oriented lens and foundation. 

How are They Making a Difference? 

DFA have established a range of programs that focus on actionable change in the lives of New Zealand youth, by working towards connecting communities and empowering rangatahi to engage with technology in ways that would otherwise be unavailable to them. 

The Recycle a Device program reduces the device inequities across communities and changes the way we deal with e-waste, preventing them from ending up in landfills. They do this by collecting unwanted laptops from recycling and landfill and using them to develop and grow young people’s digital, software and hardwares skills. The program teaches youth how to diagnose and repair these devices, which are then donated to those in need for employment, education, and connection with society. This practical, low cost and community driven program is designed to increase education around the circular economy, provide future career opportunities for young people, and curate a pathway to success. They also help construct behaviour that will promote sustainable e-waste practices, waste reduction, and community participation in the short and long term. 

Code Club is a free extra-curricular coding programme that removes barriers to entry and allows the inclusion of diverse socio-economic groups and people who are most impacted by the digital disparity. This programme teaches youth the valuable skills of coding and encourages them to interact with technology. Programmes like this, however, are typically cost-prohibitive to certain demographics. However, Code Club is free, allowing youth from all backgrounds to access this empowering education. With the help and support of communities across the country, Code Club ensures that as many tamariki have access to devices and digital education as possible.

Digital Pīkau is another creative initiative from DFA. This online ‘backpack’ teems with accessible teaching resources, providing step-by-step guides, Aotearoa-specific themes, and interactive project activities. This enables educators, whānau, and students to learn and practice tools and technologies in creative and engaging ways. Digital Pīkau promotes the growth and development of digital technology education and subsequent skills and knowledge of our tamariki, aligning with the New Zealand Curriculum. 

How Can We See Digital Future Aotearoa’s Positive Change?

There are several ways that DFA records their progress and can thus see how their initiatives have made a profound difference in communities and individuals. Quantitative data has shown that their programmes have made vast positive contributions to a more socially, economically, environmentally and sustainable Aotearoa. For example, in 2023, their Recycle a Device program diverted 3.6 tonnes of e-waste from landfills. The programme also gifted 2374 laptops across the country to those in need and 334 rangatahi have learnt new STEM skills. As for Code Club, there are 396 established and running clubs across Aotearoa, with 5198 registered children participating. 

DFA also measures the success of their initiatives through qualitative feedback and testimonials. By talking to those who have participated in their programmes, listening to their concerns and implementing changes to improve the programme, they have collected a lot of positive feedback from community members. 

"I will be able to keep up and live life, since you need a device to be able to function in society. [I'm] on the benefit in transitional housing, mom of a 14, 11 and 1-year-old. Children need a laptop for homework and I will use it for looking after bills and stuff" - Device recipient.

Through the collection of data, they note that they have a great turnout of female Māori and Pasifika identifying students, of whom are currently under-represented in the technology landscape. DFA are proud to be helping provide the education and skills to these groups, helping to elevate their voices in the NZ technology industry, and give their creative brains and talent an opportunity to shine. The programme will help to empower them to pave a path to successful futures and well beings. 

The Positive Change in Our Backyard

Digital Future Aotearoa focuses on establishing and maintaining genuine inclusion of groups that do not have representation in the digital and technology landscape. Their programmes, especially the Recycle a Device programme confronts the instability and neglect in the environmental, social, cultural and economic spheres of Aotearoa. Subsequently, they provide tools and skills to identify the negative impact of societal norms and work towards systems that reflect their needs and interests, and work towards more beneficial outcomes for all diverse groups. 

DFA is a unique organisation that would be thrilled to see their programmes make such a profound difference that they are no longer needed. In the meantime, they work to change the landscape of our society, environment, rangatahi and future generations by ensuring that they will be ready and equipped to tackle the ever-changing digital and technological challenges of modernity. 

NZ Compare is proud to announce Digital Future Aotearoa as a finalist in the Making a Difference Award. NZ Compare takes pride in making a positive difference in the everyday lives of Kiwis. If you or someone you know is making a difference, be sure to enter the 2024 Awards