Digital Divide Deepens For Low Income, Disabled, Indigenous, and Ageing Australians
1 August 2017 at 8:00 am
Three million Australians are still not online and are missing out on educational, health, social and financial benefits as a consequence, a new report has found.
The Australian Digital Inclusion Index, released on Tuesday, revealed that although online participation is increasing across Australia, gaps continue to exist- and widen- between those who are digitally “included” and “excluded”.
The report found that Australians with low levels of income, education and employment are less digitally included – as well as Indigenous Australians and people with a disability.
Compiled by RMIT in partnership with Swinburne University’s Centre for Social Impact and Telstra the report also found the digital divide was widening between older Australians and younger Australians, and those on low incomes compared to high-income earners.
Lead researcher Professor Julian Thomas from RMIT’s Digital Ethnography Research Centre said although more Australians are getting online “much more work needs to be done” to include all Australians.
“We can see that there are particular groups who are more likely to be digitally excluded, and who lack the ability to maximise the benefits of being online,” Thomas said.
“As an increasing number of essential services and essential communications move online, the divide is getting deeper.”
The report also found affordability and geographic location continue to be a challenge for many Australians, while digital skills and confidence was identified as a significant barrier for older Australians.
Director of the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne Professor Jo Barraket said Australians who have lower levels of income, education and employment less likely to be online.
“Digital inclusion has become fundamental to participation in economic and social activities at a community, national and global level,” Barraket said.
“The index is a vital information tool to shine a light on areas of exclusion and with four years of data we’re now able to get a longer term view of trends that are significant.”
Telstra’s General Manager of Digital Inclusion Nancie-Lee Robinson said the index would be used by Telstra and its partners across the community, government, education, and corporate sectors who are focused on addressing digital inclusion.
“We wanted to help create an information tool to inform not only our work in addressing digital inclusion – but that of others in this space. Over the past 12 months we know that our partners have been using this information to focus and refine their work to address digital inclusion gaps,” Robinson said.
“As we continue to head down the digital highway, being online is becoming a prerequisite, not a choice, and those who are excluded will become significantly more marginalised.
“The Australian Digital Inclusion Index is about understanding the drivers of digital inclusion to help us bridge the gap.”