The ADII 2021 findings show that, while Australia’s digital transformation continues to accelerate, some Australians are missing out on the benefits, and risk being left behind in the post-COVID economy. It is good news that the number of people who are highly excluded has fallen over time. However, a substantial number are still in this situation.

As services from health to education shift in whole or part to modes of automated, online delivery, the consequences of exclusion for these Australians are likely to translate into lost opportunities and restricted options for work, education, citizenship, and social connection.

Important improvements in network access over recent years have been critical to enabling many Australians, and many organisations, to maintain essential activities and connections through the pandemic. However, the experience of the pandemic also underlines the scale of the challenge, which includes, but is by no means limited to the enhancement of infrastructure.

At the level of government programs, digital skills and abilities initiatives to date have not been co-ordinated. Some useful steps have been taken to alleviate the affordability problem, but to date these have been on a temporary or provisional basis. Many low-income Australian households have spent long periods in lockdown without a low cost, high quality, fixed broadband product in the marketplace. Access to affordable devices that are appropriate for online work and education has also emerged as a major challenge.

Remote First Nations communities have been required to respond to the pandemic often without adequate communications. Meeting the challenge of Australia’s Closing the Gap targets for digital inclusion will require a substantial effort to support the development of effective local strategies, combined with the necessary data collection to track outcomes at a national level.

The provision of affordable broadband across all our cities and regions must therefore remain a high priority for public policy, business, and the community. Targeted initiatives and programs that build digital capabilities are a vital area for investment and development.

Change will require sustained commitment from all levels of government, private industry, the not-for-profit sector, and the broader community. It is pleasing to see many organisations, educational institutions, public sector agencies and communities taking up this challenge. However, the evidence shows that we need to do more. As a community we are now planning the economic and social rebuilding of Australia after the pandemic. Digital inclusion should be an integral part of our planning.

CREDIT: Home – Australian Digital Inclusion Index

 

Australian Digital Inclusion Index