SA On the Wrong Side of Digital Divide
9 March 2017 at 4:06 pm
Welfare peak body, the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) has called for a whole-of-government strategy to address digital disadvantage in that state.
SACOSS launched on Thursday its State Budget Submission 2017/18 Jobs and Prosperity in our Digital World, which recommended a taskforce to develop a digital inclusion strategy.
SACOSS also wants the government to convene a digital inclusion summit to be held in the second half of 2017 to explore more ideas of how to address digital disadvantage with the aim of boosting jobs and opportunities.
According to the Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII), SA performs poorly. The South Australian ADII summary score is 51.6 points, which is 5.3 per cent below the national average of 54.5, and 13.5 per cent lower than the ACT which is the best performing jurisdiction. SA rates second last above Tasmania.
SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley told Pro Bono News it was “a myth” that everyone was online.
“We know that large numbers of disadvantaged South Australians do not have the phone and internet access needed for job-hunting and training, and to interact with businesses and government departments,” Womersley said.
“This digital disadvantage is coupled with continuing high levels of unemployment and underemployment.”
He said the issue was not just one for young unemployed people or older people.
“It’s a combination at both ends of the spectrum. And the other group that we know is struggling are those with English language difficulties. They may be refugees or they may be people who have been here for many, many years but have not developed their literacy and they rely on family members to keep them connected,” he said.
“SACOSS research released late last year identified that low-income people struggle to afford essential telecommunications services which is why we are also recommending the provision of un-metered [free] access to all sa.gov.au websites.
“We need a strategy to boost skills in IT and to boost affordability and access. We want to see SA lead the other states in digital inclusion within the next 10 years.
“The digital world is not stopping. We need a statewide plan and a national plan.”
He said, by convening a summit later this year, South Australia could take into account where it was placed in terms of digital inclusion and the challenges ahead.
The SACOSS budget submission contained 17 recommendations to tackle digital disadvantage, grow employment opportunities, provide skills pathways into growth industries and address the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
Other key recommendations included:
- a $250 million Community Housing Loan Scheme
- a $20 million Community Centres Building Scheme
- establishing a commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People
- $1.5 million per annum for extended support to young people in out of home care until age 21.