Connected and online - Waipawa leads way

The small settlement of Waipawa in southern Hawke’s Bay has been declared the most digital town in Aotearoa New Zealand after a push to get more businesses online and connected to the world.

Small Business Minister Stuart Nash said the government-financed programme Digital Boost has worked with local businesses and the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council to get more online to take advantage of digital opportunities.

“Waipawa has a population of just over 2,000 people and has historically been a rural service town for sheep farming and transport connections between the Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay,” said Stuart Nash.

“However small businesses in Waipawa are increasingly using digital technology to connect with customers and other businesses, make daily life and commerce more efficient, and keep up the momentum of economic recovery.

“There are around 130 local businesses in Waipawa, but only around 50 had an online presence before the Digital Boost programme began working with the community and council.

“The partnership between central government, local government and businesses means more than 70 businesses now have a website, and a new online business directory Shop Waipawa also lists all 133 businesses in one place.

“Whether you want to plan a wedding, get a warrant of fitness for your car, pick up some organic vegetables, grab a coffee, or hire a tradie, the new digital tools make it easier to live local, shop local, and enjoy local.

Stuart Nash also launched a new tool for local businesses to assess and rate their digital presence, identify ways to improve performance, and develop a plan for improvement.

“The new Checkable tool has been developed by Auckland-company The Mind Lab and is free for all businesses in the Digital Boost programme from today. It effectively audits the digital footprint of a business and generates a digital action plan for owners to follow.

“The Digital Boost programme is a collaboration between government and the private sector and is now just over one-year old.  More than 44,000 people and small businesses are now participating in digital skills training under the programme.

“It complements broader investment in lifting digital connectivity and improving access to online services. More than $18 million has been invested from the Provincial Growth Fund to develop 15 Digital Hubs in regional towns and connect 538 rural marae to the online world.

“Small businesses that use digital tools and technologies have performed better through the pandemic, sustaining their revenues, and suffering fewer job losses. Digital Boost will keep building resilience for small businesses and towns as the broader shift to digital continues,” said Stuart Nash.