Back in December I posted a blog after my fun and informative trip to Australia. I talked about the creation of a ‘digimanifesto’ that I was involved in for Australia’s National Year of Digital Inclusion. I tweeted a pledge to go into the manifesto, which has now become a co-created plan of action – I promised to email the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
Seeing as today is Australia Day, I thought it was the perfect time to send my email to Mr Turnbull about the National Year of Digital Inclusion…
‘Today is Australia Day. I’m a little behind you in time zones as I’m writing from the UK. On Australia Day 1988 I was living in Australia to deliver a bicentennial project; I was supporting a national touring exhibition showing artefacts, art, and ideas from Australia over the 200 years since the arrival of the first fleet.
My job in 1988 was to connect children around Australia using the internet, so that they could swap stories from parents and grandparents about the past, as well as share the different experiences they faced whether in public housing in Melbourne or living on a sheep station in outback Queensland. I didn’t know then that the work we were doing back in 1988 was firmly rooted in the future, and although I had a hunch that the internet was going to be significant to the world I really didn’t understand how significant.
My career has led me to work in education and the internet ever since. In the UK I lead a national digital inclusion charity, Tinder Foundation. We support local organisations – community centres, libraries, and others – with networking, capacity development, advocacy, grants, and a dedicated online platform for the learning of basic internet skills. We help over 250,000 people each year to move from no or low digital literacy, to being confident internet users who, in the 21st century, can now use the internet to change their lives.
This is not just about age. In the UK, where the demographics are very similar to Australia, the main delimiter of people’s productive use of the internet is their socioeconomic group with working age people affected as much as older people. And that affects people as individuals, as well as people who are running small businesses.
In the UK there is infrastructure investment from our Government to ensure that everyone has access to good quality broadband, however, we have more people who don’t use the internet that is running past their doors as we have people in the not-spots without the connectivity. The urban poor don’t use the web, or the majority of them use it in a simple or shallow way, although they have the infrastructure available. The 2016 internet infrastructure is about both the cables in the ground and equipping all citizens to use the web productively.
2016 is the National Year of Digital Inclusion in Australia. I think this is an incredibly positive idea. It’s being run by Infoxchange with support from Australia Post. I had the pleasure to visit Australia in October/November for a speaking tour – in Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane – to help launch the National Year of Digital Inclusion (NYDI), led by Infoxchange as they kicked off a mass co-creation of a NYDI manifesto.
I pledged that I would write to you to offer my continuing support to Infoxchange, Australia Post, DTO (Digital Transformation Office), the Queensland Government, and other partners throughout this year, and to wish you a highly successful National Year of Digital Inclusion. I thought Australia Day 2016 would be a perfect time to write.
Good luck, you have so much to gain from a 100% digitally empowered nation, I’m sure the National Year of Digital Inclusion will accelerate the pace at which you achieve this.
Helen Milner OBE
Chief Executive, Tinder Foundation’
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