Digital inclusion in Australia
About Digital Inclusion in Australia
The internet has transformed almost every aspect of our lives. But for the 3 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.
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, around 3 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 3 million Australians, largely low income, remote or vulnerable communities, 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 1.3 million Australian households without internet access at home in 2014-15 (14%) *
- 20.4% of Australians born in non-English speaking countries, do not access internet compared to a 15.5% national average *
- 76.6% of people educated to year 12 or below use the internet, compared with 92.8% of people with a tertiary qualification *
- Only 51% of people aged 65 or more are internet users compared to 84.6% national average *
- One million people with a reported disability do not have internet access at home **
- Of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons, while 85.7% of Aboriginal people living in non-remote areas have accessed the internet in the last 12 months, only 53.1% of those living in remote areas have done ‡
- More than two thirds of people who are homeless had difficulty paying their mobile phone bill in the last 12 months §
- In Australia’s most disadvantaged communities, only 68% of children aged 5 to 14 years accessed the internet at home over a 12 month period (compared to 91% of children in the most advantaged communities) ††
* 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
** Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4430.0 – Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2012
†† The Smith Family (2013) Sport, culture and the internet: Are Australian children participating?
‡ ABS, 4714.0 – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15
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 Tech Savvy Seniors program assists older Australians to develop the technology skills and confidence they need 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 110,000 seniors 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.