Australia is digitising, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the pace of every-day activities moving online. It is becoming increasingly critical that all Australians are digitally included so they can participate in all aspects of society.
Being digitally included means:
- A person has affordable access to high-quality internet, and owns appropriate devices to utilise the internet.
- A person can use the internet in an accessible way, whether they are living with disability, from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds, or with other needs.
- A person has the ability, skills and confidence to complete tasks on and benefit from the internet.
In order for Australians to engage in basic online services such as MyGov, Centrelink and Medicare - as well as banking and telehealth - it is essential they have affordable and reliable internet and devices, can use the internet in a way that works for them and have the skills to complete tasks confidently and safely.
Digital inclusion is not just necessary for Australians’ personal life. Increasingly, a person must have internet access and skills to join the workforce. Finding job opportunities, applying for positions and having the necessary basic digital skills all hinge upon being digitally included, with digital exclusion being a driver for unemployment.
Before the pandemic, Australians were being left behind because they did not have the affordable access or the skills necessary to participate in a digital world. Now, with more of life moving online, increasing digital inclusion in Australia must be a priority.
Currently, the approach to increasing digital inclusion is decentralised and inconsistent across government, business and community groups. Each entity is setting its own goals and creating its own programs to address the problem, lessening the impact of each program. Providing a central strategy to address digital inclusion would allow all stakeholders to work together to amplify the efforts, ensuring the most vulnerable Australians are not left behind.
In this position paper, the ADIA recommends the following to increase digital inclusion in Australia:
- A whole-of-government strategy should be developed - a National Digital Inclusion Roadmap (Roadmap) - so businesses, nonprofits and government can work towards the same goal. Responsibility for the strategy should sit with one Department.
- While the Roadmap is being developed, specific initiatives can be initiated:
- Creating a Digital Capabilities Framework to provide a common understanding and goal for what it means to be a digitally capable individual.
- Assessing which affordability measures taken in the immediate response to COVID-19 can be retained going forward. This may include a permanent low cost option for those on low incomes.
- Move towards all federal, state and local government websites being compliant with the latest accessibility standards (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines - WCAG 2.1).