The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the critical importance of digital inclusion in contemporary Australia. With the shutdown of schools, businesses, services, shops and meeting places across the country, the digital transformation of education, government, business and community services has accelerated.
However, the rapid acceleration of the digital economy and society is emerging at a time when some members of the community still face real barriers to online participation. The impact of the pandemic has therefore been particularly difficult for some Australians and may have lasting consequences. Older people, families without adequate internet access, and vulnerable Australians are among those who have been especially isolated during the pandemic.
The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) was first published in 2016. This edition provides the most comprehensive picture of Australia’s online participation to date. The ADII measures three key dimensions of digital inclusion: access, affordability, and digital ability. It shows how these dimensions change over time, according to people’s social and economic circumstances, as well as across geographic locations, over a seven-year period from 2014 to 2020.
- Digital inclusion is increasing in Australia, but the rate of increase is slowing
- The gaps between digitally included and excluded Australians are substantial and widening for some groups
- Although internet infrastructure is available to almost all Australians, more than 2.5 million remain offline
- NBN take-up continues to close the gap in Access for rural Australia
- There are substantial differences in digital inclusion between Australians living in rural and urban areas
- Building digital confidence to safely and securely use the internet is important for enhancing digital inclusion
- Affordability remains a key challenge and is likely to be exacerbated by the COVID-19 economic slowdown
- Mobile-only users are less digitally included
- COVID-19 has been highly disruptive for students in low-income family households
- Low levels of digital inclusion for older Australians increase the risks of social isolation and loneliness
- Increases in digital inclusion for Indigenous Australians have stalled
- Better digital inclusion outcomes will depend on collaboration across sectors and all levels of government