Hey Australia: It’s time for an (Australian) national year of digital inclusion

My first born has grown up and flown the nest, quite literally flying to Australia two years ago to work and live in Sydney. At the end of October/early November I spent some time in Australia, importantly spending time with my son, but also working.

Earlier this year I saw a tweet that said that Infoxchange was working with Australia Post and other partners and had designated 2016 as the National (Australian) Year of Digital Inclusion. I thought that sounded like a great idea and tweeted them. A few Skype calls later and a plan had been born – I would support Infoxchange to launch the Australian Year of Digital Inclusion with some public lectures, workshops and events. (Isn’t Twitter great?)

It was a good trip on both a professional and a personal level. As with anything that’s eventful and interesting it keeps permeating in your consciousness and you keep thinking about it. So that’s my excuse for why this blog is so late.


I spoke in 4 cities – Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane; six speeches, over five days, with one message: Leave Nobody Behind.

Australia has long been a trailblazer for distance learning, with children learning through computers and a fledgling internet as far back as the 1980s, but for adults today digital inclusion is in its early stages. People were so keen to learn from our experiences at Tinder Foundation and were very complimentary about everything weve been able to achieve in the UK with partners both local and national. The Workshops were to start the creation of a ‘digimanifesto’ for the National Year of Digital Inclusion with the brave amongst us tweeting our pledge to go into the manifesto that is now a co-created plan of action. I promised to email the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Pledge for Australian Year of Digital Inclusion #godigimanifesto #digitalinclusion

My pledge was to email Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian Prime Minister

Infoxchange has a great site – Go Digi – to help promote digital inclusion and digital inclusion guides (volunteers or Digital Champions in UK speak). They are supported by Australia Post and another corporate Telstra (the biggest telco) also funds activities, such as Swinburne University creating a Digital Inclusion Index and a range of delivery mostly targeted at older people. So there is already support from the commercial sector.

Canberra is the Government capital of Australia but is very different to London or even Washington DC. One person said to me that Canberra is like “a Government building theme park” – all nicely laid out with well manicured lawns, but lacking a heart. At my public lecture at the National Australian Library in Canberra, rather than people from Government asking questions the audience were mostly practitioners asking questions about setting up internet access computers in homeless hostels, for example. You can listen to my public lecture in Canberra HERE.

I actually met the Federal Government people in Sydney. Meeting with Paul Shetler who’s moved from GDS (in the UK) to DTO (Digital Transformation Office in Australia), to establish a single website for Government (gov.au) and user-centred transactional services. The population in Australia is almost 24m and they have a Federal Government (national) as well as State Governments; this makes decision making more localised, but it also means that big States such as New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland are also developing their own digital services and digital teams. Compared to the UK, doing things with Government/s feels more fragmented and more complicated to achieve the kinds of economies of scale we’ve achieved in the UK with Tinder Foundation and partners helping over 1.7m people in five years.

Looking forward to tonight ... ! #digitalinclusion in Australia @godigiaustralia

In Queensland the State Government seemed very organised. At my public lecture – Learnings from the UK – I was introduced by the Minister for Digital, Leeanne Enoch, who spoke passionately about the difference digital can make to people leading complex and difficult lives. She tweeted:

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I also gave a keynote at the Queensland Governments launch of their Digital Champion programme – note that Digital Champion means people who champion and share digital, including a school girl – Brynlea Gibson – who won the national coding prize, to an outback photographer sharing her story online, to Jenny Ostini researching the impact of the internet on everyday lives. The Minister was there again – we were becoming a lovely double act!

Amazing to meet the fab @LeeanneEnoch and the Qld Digital Champions #digitalinclusion

The people in Australia are doing so much right, and for such a nascent sector there is a lot to applaud. And Australia is different to the UK – its huge geographically for starters, and there are clearly remote and rural people who live thousands (not tens or hundreds) of miles away from the nearest town.

Helen and Jenny Ostini

It was a pleasure to meet Jenny Ostini and the other Digital Champions


What do I think our Australian partners should do next?

Over the years weve learned that success comes from doing depth at scale. This means focus on local communities and on socially excluded people, support for people where they are and support to improve their lives. Local, but coordinated and organised.

And digitally enabled. Using everything digital has to offer. Of course great online learning content  – Learn My Way for example – but also collect data to evidence the numbers reached and the impact achieved. And promote services to online people via a map to find local partners and social media to help friends and family find you.

Leaving almost 4m Australians excluded from the benefits of the web isnt just a bad idea, it just doesn’t add up. The cost to the Government and to society of leaving them behind is far more than the cost of supporting them to gain the skills and interest they require. Weve done the business case for the UK, we know the maths.

Its not just the economic case that shows a clear pathway to doing more so that more people can benefit from digital, there is a clear moral case too.

Ill be writing to the Australian Prime Minister before Christmas, to tell him that Tinder Foundation supports the Australian National Year of Digital Inclusion. Hes a man with a history in digital so Im sure hell understand what needs to be done.

And for the other Australians I think its time to get angry and get organised.

Get angry and Get Organised

Let me know how we can help.

My slide deck for my Australian talks – brought into one slide deck – is HERE.

Another wonderful year

Last week was our fourth birthday. Can you believe it? Tinder Foundation is now four years old. It seems like just yesterday we were starting out – a small team with big dreams and only one government contract to our name. We’ve come so far since then and our strategy has grown and developed from a little spark into a fully blown bonfire. We now have a 50-strong team and our passion to help those most in need to develop their digital skills and improve their lives is stronger than ever.


It was Emily’s (our Research and Specialist Insight Manager) birthday too, so she did us the honours of cutting the cake.

There’s one group of people that we really couldn’t do it without and that’s our network of more than 5000 community partners. You really do make good things happen with digital technology and I couldn’t be more proud of the work you do. Thank you so much to everyone who works with us and helps us too. I’m looking forward to continuing our work with you over the next year and beyond.

As well as our birthday last week we had our annual board meeting and AGM. If you’re not familiar with our board you can take a look at them on the Tinder Foundation website. They really are a very lovely bunch of people and they’re so knowledgeable. They all come from different backgrounds and do very different jobs but they all have one thing in common: they all believe in Tinder Foundation and the work that we do. I’d like to thank the board as well for the experience and the confidence they bring to our organisation year after year.

There’s a lot of really exciting stuff in the pipeline for Tinder Foundation in 2016, including our work to improve the already wonderful Learn My Way. Our team are working really hard to develop the next generation best possible learning platform for our users and I really can’t wait to see the finished product. We played a game in the workshop section of our AGM which involved coming up with an idea to explain the internet to an alien race. The new Learn My Way is going to be so great that if we sent it up into outer space in a rocket, it would definitely be able to teach aliens about computers, the internet and all the wonderful benefits they can bring.


Again a big thank you to our network, our board and to the Tinder Foundation team for just being awesome. Keep doing what you do, because you are truly brilliant at it. Here’s to another year of fun!

Digital Revolution and a gateway for change

Last week was Tinder Foundation’s fourth annual Digital Evolution conference and a broad range of thought leaders, policy makers and community organisations came together to discuss how we can work together and continue to build and sustain our digital nation. I can’t believe the day is over again for another year but I believe it acted as a real gateway for change – an opportunity for the digital inclusion practitioners in attendance to express their opinions, share their experiences and gain new ideas on how they can contribute to our digital future.

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Our vision

In the last five years we’ve helped more than 1.7 million people. Our vision – the vision of Tinder Foundation – is a world where everyone benefits from digital. But like I said on the day, it’s not actually about digital inclusion. Those words make people think of technology – this is a revolution about people. It’s about transforming people’s lives and building a stronger economy. What we’re all doing is working together to create digital fluency; creating people with basic digital skills and internet confidence. I feel like we really put this message across on the day and I hope those in attendance feel inspired to rally the troops and power forwards.

In my afternoon speech I made it very clear that Tinder Foundation, no matter what happens, will stick to the knitting. Our vision is digital inclusion for socially excluded people. The people who are left behind are the poorest and most vulnerable in society and we want to make sure they have the skills – employability, financial literacy, or even digital health – to improve their lives. We are not going to give up. Even it it falls out of fashion we’re still going to do it. Our network of community partners are a big club with a shared vision and we’re all doing this because we want to – because we believe in it.

Revolution, not Evolution

Four years ago, when we were planning our very first conference, I wanted to call it Digital Revolution, but the team wanted to make it a bit more ‘user-friendly’. To this day I still find it appropriate. The whole point of a revolution is about working together. Many voices united is stronger and more powerful than one voice alone. If we continue to work together to create our digital nation, we can make a real and visible difference. We can’t be complacent here – we need change.

It was Tinder Foundation’s birthday on Tuesday 1 December and we’ve come so far in the last four years – but there’s still much work to be done. The Autumn Statement and Spending Review took place on the same day as our conference and it brought some welcome news; news that will help us continue our revolution – an additional £450 million has been allocated for the Government Digital Service. I can’t wait to see what will be achieved with this cash injection. I’m sure it will be a lot.

Thank you

I’d like to say a very big thank you to everyone who attended Digital Evolution: Building a digital nation, thank you to all our partners, and thank you to our network of community partners. It’s the work they do that happens on the ground that really makes a difference. Thank you to all of our speakers and panellists on the day and especially thank you to Maggie Philbin for chairing. You were wonderful.

I can’t wait to see where we are and how many people our collective efforts have helped by 2016’s conference. Please keep doing what you’re doing, because together we can make a real difference. Until next year …