Once again, Australia is nearing polling day, with the Federal Government due to call an election by May 2022. In the leadup to the election, there is an opportunity for all political parties to commit to tangible steps that will help all Australians thrive in a digital society.
The ADIA has released our Election Policy Recommendations, advocating for policies that will see more people in Australia get online and the digital divide lessen. We encourage politicians running for re-election to adopt these policies and show that digital inclusion is a priority for them and their party.
ADIA Policy Recommendations
Create a Whole-of-Government Digital Inclusion Strategy that is managed by a dedicated departmental team so Australian businesses, nonprofits and government can work together in a coordinated manner. One way to accomplish this would be by making the Digital Technology Taskforce (DTT) out of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet permanent.
Establish a Digital Capabilities Framework to provide a common understanding of what it means to be a digitally capable individual. A framework would outline which digital skills are associated with which level of learning or competency and allow organisations to tailor their training programs to a common reference, ensuring everyone is working towards the same goal.
Enshrine a Low-Cost Broadband Option for people on low incomes that still delivers quality speeds. 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.
Upgrade all Federal Websites to be Compliant with the latest accessibility standards (eg Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and build new websites and platforms to be accessible from release. Accessibility should not be an afterthought and all Government services should be built for all Australians.
While steps are being taken to improve digital inclusion in Australia, there is still a long way to go. Each year, the Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) tracks digital inclusion throughout Australia. The latest survey was released last week and showed:
- Digital inclusion at the national level is improving, from an average Index score of 67.5 in 2020, to 71.1 in 2021.
- 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.
We released our Election Policy Recommendations in connection with Get Online Week, Good Things Foundation Australia’s annual digital inclusion campaign. The ADIA is proud to be an Official Supporter of Get Online Week.
The ADIA would like to thank our members for their support. We are united in our desire to address the digital divide, and the ADIA will continue to advocate for policies to ensure all Australians have the ability and tools to thrive in a digital world.