Miles together

At the end of August I spied the Australian Digital Inclusion Index – a new report highlighting the extent of the digital skills gap in Australia and setting down a benchmark to measure future action. I found it particularly interesting as we’ve just started working with an Australian organisation called Leep – and their CEO, Cecily Michaels, is coming to speak at our conference in November.

Helen and Cecily

Me and Cecily at Harbour Bridge, Sydney


As I read the Index, although we’re about 9,500 miles apart, I couldn’t help but feel like there are a lot of similarities between our two countries when it comes to digital exclusion – and here’s why.

In the UK there are 12.6 million people who lack basic digital skills; in Australia the key barrier for some people to getting online and maximising the benefits that doing so can bring is digital ability. It’s clear to me that there is a digital divide in both of our countries and it’s important for organisations – like us and like Leep – to make sure we’re bringing digital skills to those who need it most.

The UK online centres network supports several different groups, from jobseekers to homeless people to older people, and one group that we focus on in particular is disabled people. There are 5.9 million people in the UK who have never used the internet before, and of those 3.3 million are disabled. In Australia the stats are similar: the report states: “People with disability have a low level of digital inclusion (44.4, or 10.1 points below the national average). However, nationally, their inclusion has improved steadily (by 2.6 points since 2014), outpacing the national average increase (1.8 points).”

Leep and Tinder Foundation are now working on a project together in Western Sydney, called the “Leep in Network” – a movement for digital inclusion and people with disability. The aim is to support people with disabilities to develop the basic digital skills needed to participate in society and experience all the benefits that being online can bring. Anyone can join the network: organisations, businesses and councils who are offering services to increase digital inclusion for people with disability, such as learning opportunities, access to free WiFi or computers.

Partners will feature on the network’s free online searchable database – created by us here in the UK – so that people with a disability in Western Sydney can find an opportunity that suits them to develop their basic digital skills. We’ll also be keeping partners up-to-date with newsletters and resources to support them with their digital inclusion programmes.

We will be sharing and tweeting the new tools very soon, so watch out for those, especially if you’re working in or interested in Western Sydney.

It’s all about teamwork

I couldn’t be happier that we’re working with Leep to deliver this project, and hopefully this is just the beginning of working together. We may be 9,500 miles apart but we’re working very closely together.

As an organisation, Tinder Foundation wants a world where everyone can benefit from digital – not just people in the UK. We want to take the digital inclusion message far and wide and we want to reach out to those who need our help.

I really can’t wait for Cecily to share our partnership journey at the conference later this year – make sure you don’t miss out on that one. And in the meantime, please do take a look at the Australian Digital Inclusion Index. It’s a very interesting read and proves that digital exclusion isn’t a nationwide problem, it’s worldwide – and there’s work to be done.

People with disabilities excluded from web opportunities

Yesterday an interesting report was published by Ofcom (“Disabled consumers’ use of communications services”) looking at the take-up and use of the internet by disabled adults. It provides much needed insight into the similarities – and the differences – between those who are offline and have a disability, and those who don’t.

Late yesterday I got a phone call asking me to appear on this morning’s edition (Friday 2 October) of BBC Breakfast, to talk about the barriers that disabled people face when getting online and to highlight the consequential exclusion to savings, discounts, and the convenience of internet services.

Helen on BBC

The report suggests that demographic differences offer only a partial explanation for differing levels of communication device and service take-up. Other factors, perhaps related to the disability itself, may affect ownership and use of key communication services such as the internet.

Over three million people with disability do not use the internet, and only 55% of disabled people have internet access compared to 83% of non-disabled people.

Some of the barriers that disabled people face are the same as those of non-disabled, such as lack of skills or affordability. We also know that some disabilities occur due to ageing, and older people are more likely to lack basic digital skills than younger people. People on low income are also more likely to be non-users of the internet, and disabled people are more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people. This all makes it hard to discover which demographics are the causal link to being offline. However, the report does show that when all other demographics are removed, there is still a higher probability for a disabled person to lack basic digital skills. Accessibility is a barrier for some, and the report also highlights that people with disabilities are more likely to live alone and that also leads to less shared internet access.

Tinder Foundation’s network of community partners are working hard to make sure everyone has an equal chance to get online, and we’ve created a range of resources and support to help our local partners do more to help disabled people – and to make sure we can really make an impact on these figures.

Lian Pate and the team at Banbury SWITCH in Accrington are one of the centres doing just this, and they were kind enough to step up at the last minute and let the BBC Breakfast crew film at their centre. It was great to see their story on prime-time morning TV, which really helped illustrate the real impact that the internet can have on making disabled people’s lives easier – so I’d like to say a big thank you to them for all their help last night, and to all of our local partners for the fantastic work they do every day.

And it was nice to be on the telly to talk about the urgency to create a more equal nation, even though I had to get up super early.