Budget investment in digital economy welcome, but we must include everyone
Budget announcements show progress, but more needs to be done to close the digital divide.
Good Things Foundation Australia welcomes the 2021 Federal Budget’s focus on digital health and the digital economy. However, there is still a need for a national digital inclusion strategy and community-led solutions to ensure no Australian is left behind.
The Federal Budget allocated $1.2b towards the Digital Economy Strategy, recognising the importance of digital technology in the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding has also been committed to support job seekers to gain foundational digital skills, expand digital mental health initiatives, continue telehealth measures, and support women transitioning back into employment.
“It is great that support has been given to these initiatives and that the government has outlined a vision for creating a leading digital economy. However, we still lack a clear strategy to ensure 100% digital inclusion,” said Jess Wilson, National Director Good Things Foundation Australia.
Over 2.5 million Australians are not online and many more have limited digital skills and confidence. This means millions of Australians have limited opportunities to find and keep work, access vital health services, find reliable information online, and stay connected with friends and family. With government services increasingly moving online and being updated as a result of this Budget, those at risk of being left behind and the community organisations that support them must be part of the solution.
“We recommend that newly-funded digital transformation measures include the community-sector and that new platforms are co-designed with people accessing them to ensure those most at risk of digital exclusion can fully participate in these new initiatives,” said Jess.
Our Federal Pre-Budget Submission highlighted a number of areas where urgent community-led support is needed to reduce the risk of widening Australia’s digital divide. Our Pre-Budget recommendations are based on evidence that nationally coordinated, community-based digital literacy programs work in improving foundational digital skills, increase social connectedness, and create significant social return on investment.
“This latest funding is a step in the right direction, but for Australia to be a leading digital economy we need to get the basics right. The Australian Government needs to ensure all Australians have the digital skills they need for life and work,” said Jess.