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.