Last week, the Future Skills Organisation (FSO) and Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance (ADIA) launched their Capability Paper, kickstarting their campaign to uplift digital capability for all
Australians.

Speaking at the Innovation Aus Capability Papers event in Canberra last week, the CEO of the Future Skills Organisation shared the opportunity at hand, to establish a simple description for digital capability which can be used to support all Australians to develop the digital capability necessary to meaningfully access work, learning,
and life.

“We know how important it is that all citizens develop the digital skills necessary for work, learning and life. By combining a common language for digital skills with simple industry-led benchmarks, it will help us deliver these skills at scale for all Australians, while also providing the mechanism to measure outcomes to inform future
decisions.” Mr Kidd said.

In his panel discussion, Mr Kidd drew from the co-authored Capability Paper titled Turbocharging digital capability, which outlines a three-pronged approach:
1. A commitment to every person being able to access training that enables them to lift their digital capabilities to at least the point at which they can meaningfully access work, learning and life.
2. The adoption of the Australian Digital Capability Framework (ADCF) as Australia’s national common language around what it means to be digitally capable.
3. The adoption of an agreed benchmark for digital capability for access to work, learning and life, anchored in the ADCF that then enables measurement.

The proposed approach builds on the Government White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities which recognised that the ADCF can “align and strengthen a wide variety of efforts to build the digital capability of the nation’s workforce.”

Convenor of the Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance (ADIA), Ishtar Vij, co-author of the Capability Paper, stresses the importance of ensuring that all Australians are included in this mission, reflecting on data highlighting that 23.6% of Australians remain digitally excluded in 2023.

“We know that those experiencing digital exclusion, including in relation to their digital capability level, are groups already facing barriers to education and employment: First Nations Australians, those with a disability, living in public housing, who’ve not completed schooling, senior Australians. Digital capability transcends a typical ‘tech job’.”

“It extends to being able to engage and participate in all aspects of work, learning and life. The Measuring What Matters Framework released by Treasury in August identifies Digital Preparedness as a key indicator of a Prosperous Australia. It is critical that we bring everyone along with us.” Ishtar Vij said.

Every worker now needs digital skills, and the opportunity of a digitally skilled population is considerable. It will increase productivity and enables people to realise their potential in work and life. The ability to use these technologies opens new career pathways for people from all backgrounds.

Mr Kidd believes that agreeing a benchmark based on the ADCF will help to stimulate the digital skilling
opportunity.

“Ensuring that all Australians have the digital skills required is large and ongoing effort. We need to build on what we already know, and we will only get there if there is close collaboration between industry, government, training providers and learners.”

The Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance (ADIA) and the Future Skills Organisation (FSO) welcome the Australian Government’s recognition of the Australian Digital Capability Framework (ADCF) as Australia’s national common language on digital capability.

As outlined in Working Future: The Australian Government’s White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities, the ADCF describes the broad digital capabilities required by the Australian workforce:

This will create a common language and collaboration on the implementation of digital skills for the VET reform pathways and help build the digital capability of the nation’s workforce. Using common, easily understood language, and a simple, intuitive structure, the Framework is helping to align and strengthen a wide variety of efforts to build the digital capability of the nation’s workforce (Working Future p. 208).

The recognition of the ADCF echoes the calls of both the ADIA and FSO, who have been jointly advocating for the adoption of the ADCF – extended to cover the most foundational digital capabilities – as Australia’s common language around what it means to be digitally capable.

The ADIA and FSO are proposing a program of work focused on uplifting digital capability in Australia including collaborative work with a range of stakeholders, seeking to gain consensus on a Digital Capability Benchmark for access to work, learning and life, anchored in the ADCF. Articulating this common benchmark will be critical in galvanising efforts across a range of organisations and sectors to significantly improve on current levels of digital ability.

ADIA Convenor, Ishtar Vij, said the Government’s recognition of the ADCF was a significant step in bridging the digital divide:

“In 2020 the ADIA published a National Digital Inclusion Roadmap which identified that while a lot of good work was happening in the sector, efforts were fragmented, uncovering over 100 different digital inclusion programs.”

“The lack of a common language around digital capability was found to be a significant barrier to progress, and this presents an opportunity to align efforts and measure success” Ms Vij said.

FSO CEO, Patrick Kidd, added:

“With a projected 370,000 digital worker shortfall for Australia by 2026, uplifting digital capability must be a national priority right across the spectrum, from those taking their first steps into the digitally enabled world, right through to those making up the pipeline of talent required for technical roles”.

Organisations and individuals wishing to be involved in stakeholder consultation are invited to sign up via the FSO website.

The Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance (ADIA) joined with the Future Skills Organisation (FSO) to commend the Australian Government for the integration of digital inclusion into Australia’s first wellbeing framework, Measuring What Matters.

The ADIA contributed written submissions to both rounds of consultation on the proposed framework calling for indicators focused on digital inclusion, specifically digital ability and affordable access to both an appropriate device and internet connection.

The inclusion of a Digital Preparedness indicator in Measuring What Matters, under the Prosperous Australia theme, acknowledges all three pillars of digital inclusion: access, affordability and digital ability.

We support the Government’s decision to use the ADII as the metric for Digital Preparedness. We note that Measuring What Matters was released just days after the latest Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) data, which shows that while Australia’s digital divide is narrowing, it remains substantial, with around one in four Australians digitally excluded or highly digitally excluded.

Digital technologies – and the ability to confidently, safely, and independently use them – are required for all Australians in a contemporary economy and society, for access to work, learning and life. This includes being able to access essential services such as health, education and the myriad government services accessible online, along with finding and undertaking employment, progressing along a career path, as well as being socially connected.

The ADIA and the FSO are jointly undertaking collaborative work, with a view to gaining consensus on a Digital Capability Benchmark for access to work, learning and life in Australia. Articulating this common aiming mark will be critical in galvanising efforts across a range of organisations and sectors to significantly improve on current levels of digital ability, and we look forward to providing a detailed briefing on this project to ADIA members in the coming weeks.

The Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance welcomed the release of the latest Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) data today which highlights that digital inclusion at the national level continues to steadily improve.

In her opening address, Telstra CEO Vicki Brady noted that digital exclusion shouldn’t be an outcome of increased digitisation, and while the digital economy is bringing social, economic and cultural benefits, these benefits are not being shared. Gathering and analysing the data around digital inclusion in Australia is the necessary starting point in addressing these challenges and improving accessibility, affordability and digital ability for all Australians.

Over recent years, Australia’s average Index score has improved from 67.5 (2020), to 71.1 (2021), to 73.2 (2023).

9.4% of the Australian population is highly excluded, registering an Index score of 45 or below, down from 10.6% in 2021; and the number of excluded Australians (those with an Index score above 45 and below 61) also decreased from 16.6% in 2021 to 14.2% in 2023. Whilst it is pleasing to see improvements to the national average, we must acknowledge that almost one quarter of Australians remain digitally excluded.

Similarly, we acknowledge the significant digital inclusion gaps across Australia’s geography and society.

  • Digital Ability has improved nationally, however, some groups are seeing declines in Digital Ability scores, including people in the lowest income quintile and Australians aged over 75.
  • Affordability has improved at a national level, however, people with disability, people living in public housing, people over the age of 75, and people who are currently unemployed are more likely to be experiencing affordability stress, meaning they would need to pay more than 5% of household income to maintain quality reliable connectivity.
  • The national Access score has increased from 70.0 in 2021 to 72.0 in 2023, however several groups remain well below the national average, including First Nations Peoples living in remote and very remote communities, people over 75 years of age, and those in the lowest income quintile.
  • The number of mobile-only users has slightly increased, from 9.6% in 2021 to 10.5% in 2023. Some groups, including people in very remote areas (32.6%), First Nations people (21.3%), and those on the lowest incomes (20.7%) continue to be overrepresented in their reliance on mobile-only access. Additionally, we know that mobile-only use also limits improvements to digital ability.

When it comes to First Nations Digital Inclusion, there is still a significant gap between First Nations and non-First Nations people in Australia, and we acknowledge that the 2023 Index, through the partnership with the Mapping The Digital Gap project, takes a significant step forward in providing data specific to First Nations communities.

We thank Telstra for their commitment to the Australian Digital Inclusion Index and congratulate the ADII team on a successful launch (ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society, Swinburne University of Technology, RMIT University).

Telstra is a Founding Member of the Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance.

Visit the ADII website to review the key findings or download the 2023 Index report: https://www.digitalinclusionindex.org.au/

 

The ADIA recently held a meetup focused on the myGov review.

Our diverse panel of speakers took a deep dive into the review’s findings and shared their experiences assisting others with the use of the myGov platform. Many thanks to our panellists and moderator for sharing their insights and engaging with our audience on the day:

  • Amit Singh, member of the Australian Government’s expert independent review panel, and former Head of Global Economic Policy at Uber;
  • Dr Kim Osman, Senior Research Associate at Queensland University of Technology’s Digital Media Research Centre;
  • Rebecca Atkinson from the York Community Resource Centre;
  • And moderator, David Spriggs, ADIA Chair and CEO of Infoxchange.

If you missed out on the discussion, or you’d like to watch it again, you can find a recording of the meetup on the ADIA’s YouTube channel (Click here to watch).

The Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance (ADIA) has called upon the Albanese Government to expressly recognise the link between digital inclusion, personal prosperity and lifting national productivity in its 2023-24 Pre-Budget Submission.

In addition, the ADIA outlined the following key actions the Government could take to work toward addressing digital inclusion in Australia:

  • Ensuring affordable access to the internet for all Australians. The ADIA is a signatory of ACCAN’s No Australia Left Offline initiative, which calls for a 50 mbps service for $30 per month to be available to households receiving income support.
  • Supporting access to affordable devices by encouraging device donation in safe and appropriate ways.
  • Supporting the creation of a common language to describe digital ability for all Australians. This would allow efficient communication, collaboration and alignment of existing efforts to lift digital ability.
  • Ensuring all Government websites are compliant with the latest accessibility standards; and ensuring whole of government adherence to the Australian Standard AS EN 301 549:2020 – Accessibility requirements for ICT products and services.
  • Continue partnering with First Nations Australians on bridging the digital divide and deploying robust data collection.

With the Federal Budget to be handed down on Tuesday 9 May, Treasury has published the 732 submissions received during the consultation period in December and January.

Click here to read the ADIA submission.

Recently the ADIA hosted our final event for 2022 with a meetup on device access and affordability.

Moderated by ADIA Chair and Infoxchange CEO, David Spriggs, we were joined by an expert panel of leaders across the technology and not for profit sectors who contributed to an insightful discussion on both community needs and the intricacies of device donation and refurbishment. It is clear that there is an appetite for more work to be done in this space, not only to address digital inclusion challenges, but to contribute to circular economy goals as well.

Many thanks to our speakers:

You can watch a recording of the meetup on the ADIA’s YouTube channel (Click here to watch).

The Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance welcomes the Albanese Government’s recognition of the
importance of supporting all Australians to be digitally included. Affordable access to the internet,
combined with accessibility measures, and supporting Australians to be digitally capable of leaning
into technology, will together help narrow the gap between digital haves and have-nots.

Efforts to improve connectivity and affordability of internet access will help improve participation in
education, employment, health services, government services, and more. In particular, the targeted
affordability initiative, through which up to 30,000 families with no internet at home will be provided
a free NBN service for 12 months, will help support the ongoing digital inclusion needs of low-income
families with school-aged children.

We also welcome the Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia and the establishment
of a First Nations digital advisory group to provide advice to the Minister for Communications.
Working in partnership with First Nations people is critical.

Moves to provide school based digital literacy support in partnership with the Alannah and Madeline
Foundation will complement the array of programs in place. It is also pleasing to see that the
Government will develop and deliver a new national study on adult literacy, numeracy and digital
literacy skills, led by Jobs and Skills Australia.

“We welcome the digital inclusion initiatives announced in the Federal Budget. These are important
steps but there is still more to do. We know that 17% of the national population remains digitally
excluded, with a vast number lacking the foundational digital skills necessary to fully participate in
employment and society more broadly” said David Spriggs, CEO of Infoxchange and Chair of the
Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance (ADIA).

Australia is missing a common understanding around what it means to be digitally capable. At
present, ‘digital skills’ means different things to different people and in different sectors. There is a
need to create a common language around what it means to be digitally skilled, including at a
foundational level, through the establishment of a Digital Capability Framework. The ADIA
encourages the Government to lead the creation of a common understanding and set of objectives
that would better harness the currently fragmented efforts of those in the digital inclusion space.

The Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance congratulates and welcomes the incoming Albanese Labor Government. We look forward to working collaboratively to close the digital divide in Australia.

There is a tremendous opportunity to better coordinate and lead the investments currently being made by numerous organisations across the sector. A whole of Government digital inclusion strategy; along with a digital economy Minister with clear authority to lead on digital inclusion would be welcome steps.

We recognise Labor’s commitment to supporting all Australians to access quality, high speed internet as an essential 21st century service. This affordable access, combined with accessibility measures and supporting Australians to be digitally capable of leaning into technology, will together combine to help narrow the gap between digital haves and have-nots.

We thank the outgoing Government for their ongoing engagement and attentive work in this area.

About the state of digital inclusion
The latest Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) survey was released in October 2021 and showed:

  • The number of Australians who are highly excluded remains substantial: 11% of the Australian population is highly excluded, registering an Index score of 45 or below.
  • People who fall into the lowest income quintile (57.7), people who rent from a public housing authority (57.2), people who did not complete secondary school (57.0), people over 75 years of age (53.5) and mobile-only users (43.4) are being left behind.
  • The divide between metropolitan and regional areas has narrowed but remains marked. Regional areas record an Index score in 2021 of 67.4. This is 3.6 points less than the national average (71.1), and 5.5 points less than metropolitan Australia (72.9).
  • Affordability remains central to closing the digital divide. Based on the Affordability measure, 14% of all Australians would need to pay more than 10% of their household income to gain quality, reliable connectivity. For Australians in the lowest income quintile, most (67%) would have to pay more than 10% of their household income to gain this same connection.
  • Digital Ability has slightly improved, with the national average increasing 0.8 points from 2020 to 64.4 in 2021. But the score for basic operational skills—such as downloading and opening files, connecting to the internet, and setting passwords—has fallen slightly: from 73.5 in 2020 to 73.1 in 2021. This is potentially related to a growth in new users due to the digital uplift of services during COVID-19.
  • People living in Australia’s 1,100 remote First Nations communities are among the most digitally excluded people in Australia. ADII data shows that the gap has been widening over recent years.

We recently held a meetup focussed on Indigenous Digital Inclusion. Our panellists encompassed people working in communities, researching, and delivering programs to close the digital divide for First Nations peoples in Australia.

Our sincere thanks to:

  • inDigiMOB’s Steven Tranter and Ben Smede,
  • Dr Lyndon Ormond-Parker and Dr Daniel Featherstone from RMIT/‘Mapping the Digital Gap’, and
  • eSafety’s Julie Gibson.

We also heard from Laurence Wilson from the National Indigenous Australians Agency, who shared an overview of what they’ve heard from stakeholders on the proposed National Indigenous Digital Inclusion Plan.

If you missed out on the day, you can watch the meet up on our YouTube channel (Click here to watch).