The digital divide continues to narrow in Australia but important divisions persist, and there are clear disparities between different groups in their use of the Internet. It’s a pattern that’s been apparent for some time and it has been confirmed by an analysis of data on the household use of technology released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The research found that 85% of Australians aged 15 and older, were online and that 86% had Internet access in 2014-15 (up from 83% two-years previous and 67% in 2007-2008).
The digital divide
The kicker in these figures is that as more-and-more Australians are online, the disadvantage of being offline grows. So as the divide narrows, it gets deeper. Meanwhile, teachers assume their students have unrestricted access to the Internet and set homework accordingly; businesses assume their customers are Internet users and shape their offerings online; and governments shift resources to digital provision of information and opportunities to interact.
But household access to the Internet is not spread evenly across Australian states and territories. At one end of the scale, 94% of ACT (Australian Capital Territory) households enjoy an Internet connection while at the other, only 82% of Tasmanian and South Australian households have access.
Those living in major cities are more likely to have access than those in rural and remote Australia; 88% of households in cities falls to 82% in the inner region and 79% for those in outer regional and remote areas. While 66% of low income households have access, 98% of the high income have access, but it’s not just access that is effected by income. It also effects the type of device used to connect and quantity of connecting devices.
As in the U.S., the more highly educated you are, the more likely you are to be an Internet user; 96% of those with a bachelor degree or higher are online. As educational attainment falls, the online proportion falls, down to 77% for those with Year 12 or below. Internet use by the employed is 93%; for the unemployed 70%.
Age is always a factor in Internet use. Just over half of Australians aged 65+ are online while those 15-17 is 98.6%. the big drop-off in use is between ages 55-64 (81%) and those in the oldest age group. There are also indications that older Australians who do use the Internet are not deriving the same benefits as younger users. Users aged 25-34 are twice as likely as those aged 65+ to access health services online (32% to 16%).
Working from home
Using the Internet to work from home is strongly related to income. While just 33% of employed persons living in a low-income household worked from home via the Internet, 62% of those in the high-income households teleworked.
Addressing the digital divide and fostering digital inclusion remains a challenging and important public policy issue in Australia. The Go Digi Project, a collaboration between Infoxchange and Australia Post, have designated 2016 National Year of Digital Inclusion.
Telstra along with partners the Swinburne Institute and the Center for Social Impact are developing the Australian Digital Inclusion Index to be launched later this year. This is an attempt to better understand who is not engaging online and how that might be remedied. So there’s a lot happening in this space.
As more and more resources shift online and connectivity becomes the norm for most Australians, the disadvantage faced by those not online or those with limited access, increases. And as faster broadband is rolled out via the national broadband network, the relative disadvantage of those on more modest connections will increase.
Just as importantly, building the digital capacity of disadvantaged Australians to enable them to take full advantage of online resources remains a critical issue. We must ensure that those with the most to gain from the digital revolution are able to fully engage with the online world.
Read Article (Scott Ewing | theconversation.com | 02/24/2016)
Australia’s efforts to gain digital equality for their entire population is truly outstanding. All countries are facing this issue but few are step-up and engage the issue quite like this.
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