How can we narrow the gap?
Almost three million Australians aren’t benefitting from digital services because they are not connected to the internet, according to a new digital inclusion index.
The inaugural index, created by Swinburne University of Technology and Telstra using Roy Morgan data, shows improvements in “digital inclusion” between 2014 and 2016.
However, subsets of the community are less able to use and interact with digitally-based services than others, and affordability is also a growing concern, according to the researchers.
“A digital divide exists in Australia, and with it comes the risk of deepening social, economic, and cultural inequalities,” Swinburne vice-chancellor Professor Linda Kristjanson said.
“As digital technologies become ever-more central to public and private life, the disadvantages of not being connected increase.”
According to the report, the digital divide in Australia “has narrowed, but has also deepened”.
“Access” to the internet – a measure of both how and where people can connect – is “relatively strong”, it said.
“In part this reflects network infrastructure improvements, but is largely due to greater data allowances and the growing range of devices people own,” the researchers found.
However, affordability isn’t promoting greater accessibility and inclusion.
“While the value of internet services has improved, households are spending a growing proportion of their income on them (up from 1 percent in 2014, to 1.17 percent in 2016),” the researchers said.
“If this trend continues, it may be cause for concern, particularly for less wealthy Australians.”
Also problematic is the ability of people to take advantage of digital opportunities and services.
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