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Looking back at Get Online Week

Cass Strakosch reflects on visiting QLD Get Online Week events and what this campaign means for communities across Australia.

By cassandrastrakosch · 30/10/2019

Driving through the banana farms and sugar cane fields of Far North Queensland gives you an amazing opportunity to reflect on the size and diversity of Australia. As an experienced traveller, navigating a new landscape and taking the time to understand communities I meet along the way is always something I enjoy.

So, travelling around Queensland to visit Get Online Week events was pretty special.

Get Online Week is Good Things Foundation’s digital inclusion campaign. It sees community organisations across the country hosting events that inspire people to have a go at using digital technology. Now in its second year in Australia, the campaign nearly doubled in size, with over 900 organisations getting involved and over a thousand events scheduled – including a number in and around Cairns.

As part of the Sydney-based Good Things Foundation team, we support the national Be Connected Network of 2,700+ organisations through emails, phone calls, webinars and resources; but nothing quite replaces visiting an organisation in person. During Get Online Week this year, we managed to get to events in every state and territory, including regional centres Alice Springs and Cairns.

We regularly advocate the importance of tailored community support for people learning new digital skills. What that looks like will change depending on an organisation’s location and community needs. The grassroots model of Get Online Week reflects this, encouraging event-holders to think outside the box about how their events can encourage people to get more out of life online.

During my travels for Get Online Week, I participated in a digital kitchen event showing how you can find, share and save recipes online in a community centre in Babinda – a town nestled amongst sugar cane fields in Queensland, and I am reliably told, the wettest place in Australia.

I visited Atherton Men’s Shed up on the Tablelands, who held information sessions for the men in their community answering all their tech questions. I popped into Mareeba Library, and chatted to the team about their plans for their event (which I just missed by a couple of days) and how they support their community to learn digital skills.

In northern Brisbane on my way back to Sydney, I assisted at Seabrae Manor Aged Care’s Facebook challenge event that helped their residents interact with the organisation’s Facebook page so they could share activities and stories with their families and friends. And, what better way to get people interested in a topic than providing a pancake buffet and a chance to win prizes through a digital knowledge trivia game!

In just a couple of days and a couple of hundred kilometres, I visited very different Get Online Week events, each of them reflecting the organisation’s role in their community. It is this diversity that we see as being a main strength of the network and is one that is reflective of the diversity of Australia itself.

What is common throughout all the Get Online Week events and organisations is the important role digital mentors play. They are the people who, in little ways and big, are making such an important impact in making Australia a more digitally inclusive country. Whether it be coaching people on how to save recipes on Pinterest, offering tips on staying safe online, or helping people to feel more comfortable about learning something new by popping up some decorations or organising a pancake spread, they are the ones who make a campaign like Get Online Week possible. And, it is by meeting them, hearing about their work supporting their communities, and seeing their impact that made my trip to Queensland for Get Online Week so special.