7 December 2020
Linda Kristjanson AO and Peter Shergold AC announced as patrons of digital inclusion organisation, Good Things Foundation Australia
Two of Australia’s leading social change champions and educators, Linda Kristjanson AO and Peter Shergold AC, have joined the fight to end the nation’s digital divide and give every Australian the skills needed to access the economic and social benefits of the online world.
Good Things Foundation Australia has welcomed Kristjanson and Shergold as its inaugural Patrons who will champion digital inclusion, where every Australian has access to the economic and social benefits of the online world.
More than 2.5 million Australians are still being left behind on the wrong side of the digital divide, with limited access to job opportunities, essential services and education. Good Things Foundation Australia manages a network of over 3,000 community organisations across the country to help address the gap, but there is much more to do.
“The divide between the connected and the disconnected world is a new type of poverty,” said Kristjanson, the former Vice-Chancellor and President of Swinburne University of Technology, who recently joined the board of Seek, among other non-executive director appointments.
“In the modern day, not having digital skills is equivalent to not being able to read or write, and this means that those who are digitally challenged are being left behind.”
Shergold is Chancellor of Western Sydney University, Chair of the Centre for Social Impact and was recently appointed to the Board of the United Nations Refugee Committee, UNHCR.
“There’s a national economic imperative to bridge the divide between those who operate fluently in the digital world and those who are digitally illiterate,” he said.
“People who are digitally illiterate will become increasingly isolated and excluded from employment and services because they don’t have the sort of skills that most of us take for granted,” said Shergold.
Shergold and Kristjanson are backing the Good Things Foundation mission, which is to ensure no-one is left behind in our digital nation and everyone who needs access to digital literacy support can get it.
Growing as a digital nation also includes upskilling all Australians and ensuring education providers have the necessary resources to embed this training into their offerings, including in vocational education and micro-credentials.
Both Kristjanson and Shergold agree that Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic saw an impressive rate of digital transformation among educators and health providers. Digital innovations forecast to take years to implement were completed in a matter of days or weeks.
However, said Shergold, this rapid shift to online delivery of essential services has worsened the divide for many individuals and communities who are severely impacted by inadequate digital accessibility, skills and infrastructure.
The 2020 Australian Digital Inclusion Index found the pandemic has been particularly challenging for school students in low-income family households and older Australians, who are at risk of social isolation and loneliness.
“In many respects the pandemic has either increased or reinforced the existing digital divide,” he said.
Jo Cavanagh OAM, Board Chair of Good Things Foundation Australia, said she was honoured to be able to announce the patronage of Kristjanson and Shergold following the huge success of this year’s national Get Online Week campaign.
“Linda Kristjanson AO and Peter Shergold AC are both generous leaders who bring with them a wealth of knowledge and expertise. We are delighted they are adding their voices to the cause of digital inclusion for all Australians,” said Ms Cavanagh.
She also welcomed the announcement that Good Things Foundation Australia received confirmation in the Federal Budget that its Be Connected program has received further funding to 2024. The program has already supported over 750,000 older Australians to engage safely with digital technology.
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