Affordability the key barrier to getting all Australians online

Affordability the key barrier to getting all Australians online

Findings from the fourth Australian Digital Inclusion Index show that while internet services continue to improve, lower-income households are being priced out.

Published by Telstra and RMIT and Swinburne Universities, the annual report provides a snapshot of Australians’ online participation using the measures of access, affordability and digital ability.

The report showed for the first time the impact of the NBN rollout which has driven the biggest improvement in access since benchmarking began in 2014.

It also highlighted marginal improvements in digital ability across the board, not only in building skills but also increasing confidence in the use of different technologies.

However, affordability remained the biggest barrier to overall inclusion, with the share of total household budgets spent on services increasing in 2019.

RMIT lead researcher Professor Julian Thomas said the results reinforced that digital inclusion is a complex and persistent problem.

“The Index provides a vital evidence base, which can help us develop positive strategies to ensure all Australians gain the benefits of the digital economy,” Thomas said.

17 September 2019


Telstra's Carmel Mulhern and RMIT's Professor Julian Thomas from the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at the launch of the report in Shepparton.

Other key findings showed that in general, Australians with low levels of income, education, and employment are significantly less digitally included.

More than four million Australians access the internet solely through a mobile connection, often linked with socio economic factors including low income, unemployment and low levels of education.

Geography also played an important role, with substantial differences emerging between Australians living in rural and urban areas.

Supplementary survey research suggested digital inclusion for Indigenous Australians also further diminishes with remoteness, particularly with regard to access and affordability.

Telstra Group Executive Legal and Corporate Affairs Carmel Mulhern said as more services are digitised, digital inclusion is more important than ever.

“Technology and connectivity are an essential part of staying in touch and there are still many of our community who are missing out on the vital benefits they need because they can’t connect,” Mulhern said.

She said there remained 800,000 Australians without an email address, about 1.3 million households not connected to the internet, and one in 10 who don’t have a smart phone.

Read the full report

Story: Grace Taylor

17 September 2019


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