Further investment needed to ensure everyone benefits from digital economy
All Australians need essential digital skills to fully participate in society.
Last night’s Federal Budget’s focus on the cost of living, job creation and the provision of essential services in regional and rural communities included the importance of investing in digital skills and technology for Australia’s economic prosperity.
But with 1 in 4 Australians not having affordable digital access or essential digital skills, we risk cutting off a quarter of our population from contributing and thriving in society.
“Supporting small businesses to adopt digital technology and upskill employees is a step in the right direction, but we know that millions of Australians are lacking the essential digital skills they need to enter the workforce in the first place or take on new roles,” said Jess Wilson, CEO Good Things Foundation Australia.
“Funding community-based essential digital skills programs to ensure all Australian adults are work-ready for the new economy is crucial. Particular focus needs to be given to supporting women in the workforce, people with disability, First Nations people and CALD communities.”
The Government’s focus on tax incentives for business owners to invest in digital technology doesn’t go far enough. Non-profits and community organisations across the country are delivering essential digital skills support for people everyday. We need long term investment and a nationwide Digital Inclusion Strategy that harnesses the power of community organisations to make a tangible difference in their local communities and targets Australians who are most at risk of being left behind.
“One-off payments to assist with cost of living expenses won’t help low income families who are making choices between paying the rent, buying food or filling their petrol tank. When faced with these challenges, allocating money to pay for data or digital devices is simply unaffordable. And yet, with more and more government services moving online, people who are most vulnerable in our society are the ones who need the most support to access technology and build digital skills and confidence,” said Jess.
Recovery from the pandemic and the importance of maintaining low unemployment rates were also key themes in this year’s Budget. Further investment in expanding digital health programs, including the provision of more online mental health services, assisting people to use My Health Record and ensuring people living in rural and regional communities have access to specialist health services were also included.
“We’ve seen first hand the impact that digital technology can have in ensuring people have access to essential services, are able to stay connected with loved ones, find reliable information online and find and keep work in challenging times,” said Jess.
We welcome the Government’s ongoing commitment to economic recovery and its vision for creating a world-leading digital economy and society by 2030. However, we still lack a clear nation-wide strategy to ensure 100% digital inclusion and we must get the basics right.
Our Federal Pre-Budget Submission highlighted a number of areas of opportunity to close Australia’s digital divide, including:
- funding community based digital skills programs for all
- extending education programs so all Australians can adopt telehealth and digital health initiatives
- establishing digital media literacy programs targeting adults with low digital capability to reduce online harms and prepare for emergencies, and
- ensuring everyone has an affordable internet connection at home and an appropriate digital device to use it.
To close Australia’s digital divide and ensure that we maximise Government’s investment in digital skills and technology we must ensure all Australians have the essential digital skills they need for life and work.
Good Things Foundation Australia looks forward to working with the Government to ensure people who are digitally excluded are given the support they need to survive and thrive as we transition to a leading digital economy.