The Digital Economy Strategy is not enough to close the country’s digital divide
12 May 2021 at 11:32 am
“In order to make Australia a leading digital economy, we must ensure all Australians are able to participate in that economy”
The government’s Digital Economy Strategy has left many in the social sector disappointed by the lack of digital inclusion as its cornerstone.
On Thursday, the federal government announced it was investing almost $1.2 billion in Australia’s digital future through the Digital Economy Strategy, as part of this year’s federal budget.
But while many welcomed the vision of creating a leading digital economy and society by 2030, those in the sector say the plan is a missed opportunity to close the digital divide and ensure a 100 per cent digitally included nation.
Jess Wilson, national director of Good Things Foundation Australia, said in a statement that for Australia to be a leading digital economy it needed to get the basics right.
“All future jobs will need basic digital skills. While it is great to see the government invest in the technology workforce, no additional funding has been allocated to make sure everyone has the essential digital skills they need to find and maintain work as Australia undergoes this rapid digital transformation,” she said.
“With a strong focus on digital-first government services and business, we need to make sure that everyone in our country has affordable access to internet-connected devices at home, and have the digital skills to find work, stay connected with loved ones, and equally participate in the online world.”
David Spriggs, chair of the Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance (ADIA) and CEO of Infoxchange, agreed with Wood’s comments.
He said in order to make Australia a leading digital economy, we must ensure all Australians are able to participate in that economy.
“Without laying the foundations to increase digital inclusion, the strategy is hindered from day one,” he said.
He pointed to the Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) – which was developed in partnership between RMIT, CSI Swinburne and Telstra – which shows a large number of Australians are already digitally excluded, especially seniors, those in low-income households, rural and remote Australians, people with a disability, and First Nations People.
The ADIA called on the government to: create a whole-of-government approach to digital inclusion; build a Digital Capabilities Framework; take action to ensure permanent internet affordability measures and ensure all federal, state and local government websites are compliant with the latest accessibility standards.
“We acknowledge that this strategy is a living document,” Spriggs said.
“And we’re committed to working with the government on initiatives to increase digital inclusion, so all Australians can participate in our rapidly-digitising society.”
Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that the ADII was developed in partnership between RMIT, CSI Swinburne and Telstra, and was not compiled by ADIA.