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 we’ve 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.
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.
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:
I also gave a keynote at the Queensland Government’s 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!
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 – it’s 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.
What do I think our Australian partners should do next?
Over the years we’ve 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 isn’t 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. We’ve done the business case for the UK, we know the maths.
It’s 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.
I’ll be writing to the Australian Prime Minister before Christmas, to tell him that Tinder Foundation supports the Australian National Year of Digital Inclusion. He’s a man with a history in digital so I’m sure he’ll understand what needs to be done.
And for the other Australians I think it’s time to 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.