Digital inclusion in Australia
About Digital Inclusion in Australia
The internet has transformed almost every aspect of our lives. But for the more than 2.5 million Australians who are still not online, the education, health, social and financial benefits of being connected remain out of reach. And we know that digital disadvantage coincides with other forms of social and economic disadvantage, so those that can potentially benefit most from being connected are at greater risk of being left behind.
Digital inclusion is recognised as one of the key social justice challenges facing policy makers and communities worldwide. Digital inclusion is not just about computers, the internet or even technology. It is about using technology as a channel to improve skills, to enhance quality of life, to drive education and to promote economic wellbeing across all elements of society. Digital inclusion is really about social inclusion.
Since its development in 2015, the ADII has been widely used by the not-for-profit and business sectors, and all tiers of government. It has had a significant impact on policy and practice.
In 2019, the ADII Research Team initiated a review seeking to ensure the ADII remains relevant, effective and of public value.
Following a series of round table meetings, an extensive review of international digital inclusion literature and index models, and consultation with community stakeholders, the ADII project team embarked on the project of updating the Index.
As of 2020, we are working with the Social Research Centre to collect data for the updated Index via the Australian Internet Usage Survey.
Why do we need an Index?
- Digital inclusion is a complex and multi-dimensional issue involving technological, social and economic factors.
- While there are some statistics that paint a partial picture, there is currently no single comprehensive measure for Australia.
- The Index enables us to baseline digital inclusion in Australia and assess progress over time.
- An index helps focus policy-makers, businesses and community organisations on the issue of digital inclusion and importantly informs the development of more effective policies, products and programs to improve digital inclusion and ensure no one misses out.
What is digital inclusion?
- Digital inclusion is about access to information and communications technology and the resulting social and economic benefits.
- It has sometimes been described in terms of the ‘digital divide’ – the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technologies, in particular the internet, and those with very limited or no access at all.
- Access and affordability can present barriers to digital inclusion, but an individual’s digital engagement and confidence is also affected by digital literacy, perceptions of relevance, motivation and concerns about safety.
Why is the issue of digital inclusion so important?
- Like access to water or electricity, access to information and communication technologies is essential to living, working and participating in today’s society.
- While the digital divide has narrowed, more than 2.5 million people in Australia are still not online and not able to take advantage of the educational, health, social and financial benefits of being connected.
- We need a concerted effort to ensure that those not online and those for whom a connectivity presents affordability and competency challenges, have the access and skills they need to flourish in the digital age.
What is the extent of the digital divide?
Although the digital divide is closing, in Australia there are still deep gaps evident with a large number of vulnerable individuals without basic internet access or skills:
- There were 1.25 million Australian households without internet access at home in 2016-17 (14%) *
- 18.4% of Australians born in non-English speaking countries, do not access internet compared to a 13.5% national average *
- 79.1% of people educated to year 12 or below use the internet, compared with 96.7% of people with a tertiary qualification *
- Only 55.2% of people aged 65 or more are internet users compared to 86.5% national average *
- More than 1.3 million Australians with disability did not access the internet in the last 3 months. One quarter of these people report lack of confidence and knowledge as a reason for not accessing the internet. **
- 24.7% of Indigenous Australian households do not access the internet from home compared with the national average of 14.7%. Levels of home internet access for Indigenous Australian households diminishes further with remoteness – 45.2% of such households in remote and very remote locations do not access the internet at home. ‡
- More than two thirds of people who are homeless had difficulty paying their mobile phone bill in the last 12 months §
* ABS, 8146.0 – Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2014-15
§ Justine Humphry (2014) Homeless and Connected: Mobile phones and the Internet in the lives of homeless Australians
** ABS, 4430.0 – Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia 2015, TableBuilder custom table
‡ ABS, Census of Population and Housing 2016, TableBuilder Dwellings, Place of Enumeration dataset
Why is Telstra involved in this initiative?
- Telstra has been investing in communications equity for many years – more than $2 billion of customer benefits over the last decade through our Access for Everyone programs.
- We want to see all Australians connect, participate and interact safely in the digital world, irrespective of age, income, ability, location or circumstances.
- Telstra has a range of products, services and programs in place to improve digital inclusion, but we know this is a complex and challenging issue and something the whole industry needs to tackle if we are going to achieve significant change.
What is Telstra doing to improve digital inclusion?
- Through Access for Everyone we assist people on low income or facing financial hardship to stay connected, including through home line rental relief, rebates on Telstra bills, and distribution of calling cards. Through this program we assist around one million customers every month.
- Telstra’s digital capability programs build technology skills and confidence needed to connect, participate and interact safely in the digital world. Delivered in partnership with the NSW, Victoria and Queensland state governments, since 2014 more than 135,000 people have received face to face training through the program.
- Telstra is working with the Northern Territory government under a matched funding model to install mobile base stations and broadband for remote Indigenous communities. This includes a $15 million infrastructure commitment from Telstra over three years in the Northern Territory with an additional $1.35 million per year commitment to other digital inclusion programs.
- Telstra Safe Connections provides women impacted by domestic violence with access to a new Smartphone, pre-paid credit ($30) and information on the safe use of technology. The phones are distributed through WESNET agencies across the country.
- Through our Telstra Digital Ambassadors program, Telstra employees volunteer their time to deliver simple coaching for older Australians who have minimal or no digital literacy skills.
Why are we updating the Index?
In 2021 we will release a refreshed Index using a new data set and methodology. The Index update is in response to a series of emerging challenges and opportunities, including:
- rapid and ongoing changes in digital technologies;
- the growing significance of the online distribution and consumption of consumer and public services;
- maximising data utility and responding to requests from stakeholders for richer data insights that include the public release of more of the data that underpins the index; and,
- interest from stakeholders in having access to a customised digital inclusion survey and reporting tool they could use to measure digital inclusion in their own communities.
The updated Index will allow for a future-proofed Index that is underpinned by a purpose-built digital inclusion survey.
There will also be a digital tool owned and controlled by the ADII Research Team, available to allow communities to measure their own digital inclusion.