It’s been just over two years since Good Things Foundation launched in Australia and we went international – and it’s all happened rather fast. If you blinked, you might have missed us building a digital inclusion network of more than 2,500 community organisations, managing a $20 million grant program, and supporting over 250,000 people with our network partners to improve their confidence with digital.
So it was fantastic to see the impact we and lots of others in the sector have had in creating a more digitally inclusive society in yesterday’s Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2019 report. It brought the exciting news that digital inclusion is improving year-on-year.
First published in 2016, the Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) provides the most comprehensive picture of Australia’s online participation to date. Since data was first collected in 2014, Australia’s overall digital inclusion score has risen by 7.9 points, from 54.0 to 61.9, and improvements have been evident across all three dimensions of digital inclusion – Access, Affordability and Digital Ability. This means digital inclusion is getting better!
However, there’s little to get complacent about: “A number of groups continue to record low digital inclusion scores,” whilst “the gaps between digitally included and excluded Australians are substantial and widening for some groups.”
The report brings to light the different challenges that Australia faces in the mission to achieve Good Things Foundation’s vision of a world where everyone benefits from digital. Although Indigenous digital inclusion is improving, it remains low – this has been the case since the ADII began, and clearly more work is needed to support Indigenous Australians to gain digital equality. Geography also plays a critical role – Australia is such a huge country and the more regional and remote the area you live in, the less digitally included you will be. That’s why our approach of supporting people through hyperlocal, community organisations, our ‘Network Partners”, from all over Australia – from urban, regional, remote and very remote places – is so important and so effective. Partnership is key.
Yet the report also draws attention to the fact that many of the same challenges are experienced across borders. In remarkable chorus with the UK’s Oxford Internet Survey 2019 published last week (you can read my blog post about it here), the digital divide follows clear socio-economic contours. Broadly, Australians with low levels of income, education and employment are significantly less digitally included.
Just as OxIS found that most non-users in the UK are not interested in going online, the ADII reported that under half of all Australians think computers and technology give them more control over their lives. This suggests a transnational aspect to some of the challenges excluded people face and a focus for Good Things Foundation in both countries. We need to reduce people’s anxieties about the use of digital technologies on a global scale, and raise awareness for people across the world about the benefits of getting themselves online.
We are, of course, delighted at the positive news in the report. We’re equally delighted that over 900 of our fantastic network partners have signed up to participate in Get Online Week this year. But there is always more to be done to reach the 2.5 million people in Australia who are currently not online, and the 4 million people with limited digital skills.
Earlier this year we published a picture of digital inclusion in Australia – our Digital Nation 2019. If you’re interested in finding more stats about the state of the nation and digital inclusion do have a look at it here. Since it uses the 2018 ADII we’ll be updating it in early 2020, so watch this space for more information on that too!