In order to be a leader in the global knowledge economy, Australia needs skilled workers and a strong research sector. Government services delivered online are faster and cheaper. More people online opens up new markets and enables businesses to respond quickly with innovative new products and services. Universal access helps to address equity issues for regional and remote Australians.
In addition, digital transformation generates valuable data which can support improved health outcomes, help target financial support to those who need it most, and achieve other benefits for communities.
The advantages of a digitally enabled population are clear but if we are to make the most of this new paradigm, Australians must have access to the internet and the skills needed to create and locate accurate information. They must feel confident and safe online, and they must have a reason to be engaged with digital services.
Libraries see the need and the opportunity. We have extended our remit beyond traditional literacy (reading and writing) into information and digital literacies. We have introduced public access computers and other digital devices into public libraries. We provide access to the internet for everyone, and we are working hard to build people’s confidence, with cybersafety education. We also give people positive reasons to become more digitally connected.
While this report is essentially about public libraries and the digital economy, it is also important to note the vital part that school libraries play in leading children and young people on their journey of digital discovery. State and Territory libraries play a vital role in preserving and promoting Australia’s unique history. In universities, libraries have been the test bed for digital innovation in support of students, academics and researchers, and in industry, government, health and law, special libraries have embraced digital resources to deliver decision-ready information straight to their clients’ desks.