6 May 2021

ADIA Calls for Government Action on Digital Inclusion

The Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance (ADIA) today welcomes the Digital Economy Strategy announced by the Government, but is disappointed it does not include digital inclusion as a cornerstone.

The ADIA applauds the inclusion of connectivity initiatives and digital skills training in the strategy, and looks forward to learning more about these programs. However, the strategy announced today focuses on advanced digital skills and emerging technologies, without addressing the needs of Australians lacking basic digital skills. In order to make Australia a leading digital economy, we must ensure all Australians are able to participate in that economy. Without laying the foundations to increase digital inclusion, the strategy is hindered from day one.

The ADIA released a position paper last year outlining in detail what needs to be done to address digital inclusion in Australia. The ADIA is once again calling on the Government to:

  • Create a whole-of-government approach to digital inclusion so businesses, nonprofits and government can work towards the same goal.
  • Build a Digital Capabilities Framework that provides a common understanding and goal for what it means to be a digitally capable individual.
  • Take action to ensure permanent internet affordability measures.
  • Ensure all federal, state and local government websites are compliant with the latest accessibility standards.

The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) shows a large number of Australians are digitally excluded, especially seniors, those in low-income households, rural and remote Australians, people with a disability, and First Nations People. In a time when services – both public and private – are moving online, Australians must be digitally included to participate in the modern economy.

The ADIA acknowledges this strategy is a living document, and we are committed to working with the Government on initiatives to increase digital inclusion, so all Australians can participate in our rapidly-digitising society.

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On 25 March 2021, the ADIA held a virtual meet up to discuss mental health and digital inclusion.

The panel provided an overview of research on mental health and online forums, discussed designing online programs that meet the needs of people with complex mental health issues, and innovation in health and wellbeing technology, amongst other topics.

The panel was moderated by ADIA Chair David Spriggs and included:

  • Anthony McCosker – Associate Professor, Media and Communication at Swinburne University
  • Dr Michelle Blanchard – Deputy CEO at SANE Australia
  • Professor Jane Burns – Melbourne Medical School, University of Melbourne

 

Please see below for resources and programs mentioned by the panelists:

  • A note from Anthony McCosker written after the event, including links to relevant research
  • National Stigma Report Card – SANE Australia
  • TogetherAI – A mental health & wellbeing app for families
  • a*kin – Empathic technology
  • Hitnet – Brings information and services to Indigenous Australians


Watch the Meet Up here:

 

First Report of the Australian Broadband Advisory Council

With the recent launch of our position paper – A National Digital Inclusion Roadmap – we have been discussing the recommendations with stakeholders. One of those is the Australian Broadband Advisory Council (Advisory Council), which provides advice to the Communications Minister on ways to maximise the benefits of the National Broadband Network (NBN) and other high speed networks in key sectors of the economy.

Today, the Advisory Council released its first report – Riding the Digital Wave: Report on COVID-19 Trends and Forward Work Program. This first report looks at the best ways to use broadband to support Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The ADIA commends the Advisory Council on its thorough outline of how it will approach its work program over the coming six months. The report makes important recommendations, including supporting digital inclusion initiatives and lifting the digital skills of Australians.

We are pleased to see the Advisory Council include and support our recommendations in its report:

“The Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance recommended:
    • 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, including a permanent low cost option for those on low income.
    • moving towards all federal, state and local government websites being compliant with the latest accessibility standards (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – WCAG 2.1).

ABAC notes and supports the proposals from the Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance and will draw on evidence provided by the 2020 Australian Digital Inclusion Index in our work on regional investment.” (page 21)

The ADIA appreciates the opportunity to work with the Advisory Council and other stakeholders towards increasing digital inclusion in Australia. We also saw today, the NBN Futures Group release its report –Towards a National Broadband Strategy for Australia – which similarly endorses the ADIA recommendations.ADIA members and their valuable feedback from the frontline are what drives the policies and insights we provide to government, and we’d like to thank the members for their participation throughout the year. We’ve made great strides in 2020 shining a spotlight on the need for digital inclusion and we will continue our work to reduce the digital divide in Australia.

 

Australian Broadband Advisory Council
Riding the Digital Wave: Report on COVID-19 Trends and Forward Work Program
Key Findings
Recognition of Digital Inclusion as a Key Issue
      • The report recognises digital inclusion is an important piece of the puzzle. “COVID-19 has had a severe impact across the economy and as a consequence, some sectors and issues require immediate action. These include digital skills, digital inclusion and ongoing support for SMEs to adopt digital capabilities.” (page 8)
      • It highlights that vulnerable sectors of society have difficulty accessing the internet, especially when public facilities were closed during COVID-19 shutdowns. “The ability to get online is not the same for all Australians and the online shift has left vulnerable cohorts exposed.
        • Decreased access to internet as libraries, co-working spaces and universities closed due to COVID-19
        • Increased internet affordability concerns as large number of workers face unemployment
        • Increased health implications as cohorts with low digital skills face barriers to receiving COVID-19 health advice” (page 11)
      • The report notes that remote learning and training will be vital moving forward, but that COVID-19, “has also revealed key limitations, such as the prerequisite of digital skills, computer equipment and internet connection to undertake training online.” (page 16) It also mentions that quality internet is critical to ensure Australians do not fall behind.
Connectivity and Devices
      • ABAC highlights the necessity of connection and devices for remote learning, noting that having a “heavier reliance on broadband clearly exposed vulnerable groups.”
      • ABAC made two commitments to help ensure Australians are connected and have the correct devices for remote learning:
        • “ABAC will pursue a coordinated mechanism so economically vulnerable groups can access devices and bandwidth on affordable terms.
        • ABAC is continuing to consult on how public institutions, including public libraries, can support capacity building, and next generation WiFi enabled working environments for those who cannot work or study at home.” (Page 21)
Defining Digital Inclusion
      • ABAC identifies three main drivers for digital inclusion: Access, Affordability and Ability.
        • “Access to the internet is defined by the availability, quality, capacity and flexibility of an internet connection.”
        • “Affordability refers to the cost of internet connections relative to other living expenses.”
        • “Ability refers to the IT skills and attitudes needed to confidently use the internet.” (page 17)
You can read the full report here.

 

A National Digital Inclusion Roadmap

The ADIA has released a position paper – A National Digital Inclusion Roadmap – outlining what should be done to increase digital inclusion in Australia. The ADIA recommends:

  • A whole-of-government strategy should be developed – a National Digital Inclusion Roadmap – so businesses, nonprofits and government can work towards the same goal.
  • 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 internet services 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.

You can access the documents by clicking on the links below:

For the last six months, we have adjusted our lives to an online world. Now we are realising that when Australia adjusts to COVID-normal, many of the programs and services forced to digitise will not revert to operating as they did before the pandemic. This will only highlight the digital inequity in Australia.

Even 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 coronavirus expediting the digitisation of our daily lives, addressing digital inclusion in Australia must be a priority.

Get Online Week, an annual international campaign to promote digital inclusion, was 19 October to 25 October 2020. Around the country, events were held to help Australians develop the skills they need to thrive in a digital world. The will to tackle digital exclusion in Australia is there – but we need a whole-of-government approach and a Digital Capabilities Framework to ensure the effort is coordinated and directed where it is needed most.

 

The ADIA lodged a submission in response to the Western Australia Government’s draft Blueprint for a Digitally-Inclusive State. The ADIA commends the WA Government on its work in drafting a whole-of-government strategy to address digital inclusion and the identification of the various initiatives in the consultation draft. In addition to the work proposed on digital skills, the ADIA suggests the WA Government leverage opportunities to promote the development and adoption of a National Digital Capabilities Framework, which would define at a national level the skills Australians need to thrive in modern society.

    • You can read the submission here.
    • You can view the annexure here

This month the ADIA held a webinar about digital inclusion and the impact of COVID-19 on community organisations working to bridge the digital divide. The webinar brought together organisations within the City of Yarra in Melbourne to share challenges faced, strategies adopted and their learnings from the pandemic.

Chaired by David Spriggs, the webinar brought together:

  • Maree Foelz – Family Violence Partnerships Coordinator at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre
  • Elle Morrell – Community Development Coordinator & Manager of the Open Door community hub Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre
  • Rei Chin – Community Development Manager at Carringbush Adult Education
  • Conor Sibly – Community Development Worker involved in the North Richmond Capacity Building Initiative through the Belgium Avenue Neighbourhood House
  • Natasha Savic – Coordinator of Resources and Technology at Yarra Libraries
  • Jess Perrin – Head of Social Innovation & Digital Inclusion at Infoxchange

If you couldn’t make the event or you would like to share the discussion with colleagues, a recording is available here.

The ADIA has written to the Prime Minister calling on the Government to commit to a National Digital Inclusion Roadmap. We have proposed that initiatives covered by the Roadmap include:

  • Access and affordability of internet services – removing cost as a prohibitive barrier;
  • Digital Ability – ensuring that everyone has the skills and confidence to benefit from and complete activities on the Internet; and
  • Accessibility – allowing everyone to use the internet including those living with disability, from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds, or with other needs.

You can read the full letter here.

It has been another exciting year for the ADIA with progress being made across several key areas of digital inclusion in Australia.

Notably, the 2019 Digital Inclusion Index was released in September which showed that:

  • Since 2014, Australia’s overall digital inclusion score has risen by 7.9 points, from 54.0 to 61.9 and improvements have been evident across all three dimensions of digital inclusion – Access, Affordability and Digital Ability.
  • Scores for every state and territory increased. South Australia recorded the largest improvement (2.7 points).
  • The digital inclusion gap between Australians with disability and other Australians is substantial but narrowing.
  • Indigenous digital inclusion is low, but improving.
  • Rural Australia leads the way in NBN take-up and Access improvements.
  • Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) migrants have a relatively high level of digital inclusion.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done. The Index also shows that:

  • Although value for money has improved, affordability remains a key challenge.
  • While the cost of internet data has gone down, households are now spending more money on internet services to account for more usage.
  • People aged 65+ are Australia’s least digitally included age group.

One area the Index identifies for more support is ‘Digital Ability’, or essential digital capabilities. Worryingly, under half of all Australians think computers and technology give them more control over their lives and less than 40% feel they can keep up with a changing technological landscape.

In 2019, we worked towards this goal by meeting with members of the new Government to share the views of our members and the communities they represent. The Collective Voice team developed a Call to Action that was sent to members of both the Government and the Opposition. This Call to Action:

  • highlighted the current state of play for digital inclusion
  • identified priority segments of the community that are currently underserved, and
  • called for specific interventions to address the issues identified.

We also made submissions to two major reviews (the ACCC Digital Platforms Review and the Department of Home Affairs’ 2020 Cyber Security Strategy Review) and are encouraged by the Government’s response to the Digital Platforms Review which proposes action on digital literacy.

Our members met with Professor Julian Thomas, the lead researcher on the Australian Digital Inclusion Index, in a meet-up where Professor Thomas provided great insights into the future work of the Index and on what areas that Index would focus next year.

There will be more opportunities to engage with researchers like Professor Thomas in the New Year, so make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter for details.

As we move into 2020, the ADIA will continue its work to ensure Australia adopts a nationally accepted digital capabilities framework.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to and supported the work of the ADIA in 2019 . The work of the ADIA would not be possible without your support, and we look forward to reducing the digital divide further in 2020.

 

Dear ADIA community,

We recently completed a review of the backbone functions and priorities for the year ahead based on feedback from ADIA participants and our sponsors. The review has taken into account the excellent work done by the collective voice team in defining a ‘call to action’, the desire to progress a national digital skills capability framework as well as the opportunities presented by the new Parliament.

In response we have identified the need for the ADIA to have a more active role in public policy engagement and I am very pleased to announce that with the support of our sponsors we have been able to add this capability to the backbone.

As of 1 July the ADIA backbone will be led by Ishtar Vij, Carolyn Hough and Ben Rice from Eloquium Group. Ishtar, Carolyn and Ben bring a wealth of experience in strategy, public policy, government affairs, stakeholder engagement and communications having held senior roles across a diverse range of government, corporate and not-for-profit organisations.

One of the first priorities of the backbone will be to support the collective voice team in progressing the ‘call to action’ and engaging with the incoming government.

The backbone will also continue to support the broader work of the ADIA including scheduling regular meetups, coordinating activities and continuing our regular newsletters.

We’ll also be looking to confirm members of the ADIA Governance & Strategy Committee for the year ahead in July, with the next meeting proposed to be held in August 2019. I’ll be reaching out to previous members and if you’re interested in being involved in the committee in the year ahead please let me know.

I would like to thank John Huigen who has led the development of the ADIA as our Alliance Facilitator. John’s passion and energy have built significant momentum for the ADIA with an impressive list of achievements. John will be stepping down from his day to day role in the backbone but will continue to be involved as a facilitator when called upon and as an active participant.

Finally, I would like to thank our sponsors Australia Post, Google, Telstra and Infoxchange who have supported the ADIA both financially and on an in-kind basis from the beginning.Without their support the ADIA would not be possible.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you as always for your support of the ADIA.

– David

 

From Andrew Whelan, Project Leader, on behalf of the ADIA Collective Voice Team

Hello ADIA-ers,

Over the past 12 months the ADIA Collective Voice team, which has broad industry and sector representation, has developed a Call to Action that:

  • highlights the current state of play for digital inclusion
  • identifies priority segments of the community that are currently underserved, and
  • calls for specific interventions to address the issues identified.

While 2.5 million Australians remain offline and a further 5 million are lacking basic digital skills, the time to act is now.

We have sought and received much great feedback along the way, in line with Collective Voice Guiding Principles for Communication and would like to thank everyone for their hard work and input.

The main issues of the Federal Election are somewhat set. Despite being an important issue, digital inclusion is unlikely to be a major election focus for any of the parties. Given timings and the advice we have taken, the Collective Voice team has decided that the most effective way to make our voice heard is to have a letter ready to pass through to the relevant Ministers, shadows and other targeted people AFTER the new government is sworn in.

In the meantime we will continue to reinforce the efforts of others who are calling for similar things. For example, ACCAN recently ran a well-executed campaign for broadband affordability in line with what the ADIA is calling for, so we were able to endorse their submission, adding weight to their call on affordability.

We have now finalised the consultation/input phase and are calling for individuals and organisations to endorse the letter that contains our arguments and call to action. As indicated, the letter is planned to be sent (and followed up) after the election to a range of key politicians.

Endorsement means supporting:

  • the letter
  • the overarching call for a national strategy to address digital exclusion that should particularly address:
    • affordability, digital ability and inclusive access
    • with particular consideration of five priority segments/populations
  • the specific calls to action, being:
    • a national awareness campaign for the need for digital inclusion
    • the development of a framework to set and measure digital inclusion targets, and
    • a consultation process with lead organisations from each of the priority segments

The letter refers to an attachment that has some further details and proposals that could be included in a national strategy, but these are provided as suggestions at this stage.  Endorsement is endorsement of the letter only, not every suggested proposal in the attachment.

The more logos and names we can gather, the stronger the call will be.

Please let our Alliance Facilitator John Huigen know by May 13th if you/your organisation will formally endorse the Call to Action. 

Again, I would like to thank my hard-working colleagues in the Collective Voice team for their insights and contributions and everyone across the ADIA network who have provided input.

Regards,
Andy

Andrew Whelan

 

DOWNLOAD THE CALL TO ACTION LETTER

Author: ADIA  |  Size: 230kb  |  PDF  |  Published: April 2019

DOWNLOAD THE ADIA STRATEGY DOCUMENT

Author: ADIA  |  Size: 2MB  |  PPTX file (Powerpoint) |  Published: April 2019