Ensuring digital inclusion is front of mind in Canberra as the new ministry takes shape
18 July 2022 at 11:59 am
Data shows too many Australians are being excluded from digital spaces and it’s time for Canberra to make them a priority.
A change of government brings with it exciting opportunities to present new ideas, practical solutions and fresh innovation to an incoming ministry.
Almost two months since the Albanese government took the reins, we’ve seen a significant appetite for social justice across multiple portfolios.
We know now is the time to ensure that the issue of digital transformation, with an emphasis on digital inclusion, is firmly on the agenda for the next three years and beyond.
The current state of play
The pandemic has shone a light on the issue of digital inclusion in Australia. The most recent Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) shows us that the number of Australians who are highly excluded is significant, with more than 11 per cent falling under this classification.
This group is predominantly comprised of people who are lower income earners, with the divide between metropolitan and regional areas of Australia still significant despite some improvement over the last few years.
Of note, people residing in some of Australia’s most remote First Nations communities are some of the most digitally excluded in Australia, with this gap widening in recent years.
We have also seen just how resilient and adaptable charities and the not-for-profit sector has been during COVID-19. Digital transformation has accelerated, not just to keep up with the ever-changing working environment but also to meet the demands of the community who are relying upon our sector at an unprecedented level.
Infoxchange’s sixth Digital Transformation in the Not-for-Profit Sector report indicated 33 per cent of organisations were forced to urgently alter the way they delivered services as a result of the pandemic, with 25 per cent indicating that they were completely or largely unprepared to support staff working from home.
Despite this, the sector embraced the need to transform faster than anticipated in order to drive impact and efficiency to ultimately deliver better outcomes for people relying upon their services.
What does the sector need to see?
Prior to the May 2022 federal election, the Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance (ADIA) compiled a detailed list of policy recommendations.
These policy recommendations focus primarily on ensuring all Australians are given the opportunities to thrive in the digital landscape and ultimately reduce the digital divide.
Key recommendations include:
- A dedicated Digital Technology Taskforce that would work closely with the sector taking a “whole of government”, strategic approach to the issues around digital transformation and inclusion.
- Establish a Digital Capabilities Framework with the aim of translating the importance of digital capacity building, and how these skills can be built through structured and accessible training resources.
- Accessible, affordable and reliable broadband options for people on low incomes will go a long way in ensuring Australians have access to crucial skills and jobs training, leading to greater study and employment options.
- All federally managed websites should be upgraded to be compliant with the most up-to-date accessibility standards. This is especially important on websites that are designed to support those who may be excluded due to accessibility requirements. The goal here is to see federal agencies lead by example, so that website accessibility becomes standard practice.
Addressing the digital divide between charities and not-for-profits is also critical. We are calling on government at all levels to appropriately fund digital transformation – “paying what it takes” – and capacity-building initiatives for the sector.
How do we get there?
Achieving sustainable digital inclusion is not something that can happen overnight. It requires consistent, strong advocacy from the voices of people with lived experience and the sector, combined with a strong commitment from all levels of government.
To get there, we need to come together and amplify the issue of digital inclusion, along with the benefits of working towards a more digitally inclusive Australia.
A dedicated Digital Technology Taskforce would allow for strategic planning between the government and the sector. Such a taskforce would ensure a “whole of government” approach is taken to the issues surrounding digital inclusion and transformation. Educating not-for-profit boards and executives on how digital transformation can improve impact and overall organisational efficiency is also critical.
A great place to start your journey, no matter your level of digital literacy, is the Digital Transformation Hub, established by Infoxchange as a cross-sector partnership with philanthropic support from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and Gandel Foundation.
It is also important to share insights with the sector on how your organisation is faring with regards to the adoption of digital technology – you can do so by participating in the 2022 Digital Technology in the Not-for-Profit Sector Survey
Whether it’s casual conversations or arranging meetings with those who are in a position to influence and shape change, the more we speak, the more likely we are to be truly heard.
It’s up to the entire sector to work toward cementing the importance of digital inclusion, accessibility and overall transformation in the coming months, so that we can make meaningful difference in the coming years.
By ensuring that digital inclusion and the needs of the sector are a priority for the federal government, we know that we will gain increased capacity to drive impact and continue innovating as we move into the “post-pandemic” era.