Prof Julian Thomas: The digital divide is still a cause for concern in Australia.

Ten years ago, whenever we spoke about the digital divide in Australia, the answer was always ‘The NBN’. Prof Thomas and his team have asked whether the digital divide is still a problem, whether there is truth that it is ‘narrowing but deepening’.

Today at the Digital Media Research Centre, Julian Thomas talks about the important new report he and his team have recently launched. The team has created an ‘Australian Digital Inclusion Index‘ (ADII), designed to be a useful measure of digital inclusion across time and Australian geography. The index includes three dimensions: Access, Affordability, and Digital Ability.

The report suggests that digital inclusiveness is still a core problem in Australia, and while things are improving, there is more work to do. It raises urgent questions about what we should expect in terms of a basic, universal level of internet access, particularly as internet access becomes much more critical over many different aspects of our lives. None of our existing frameworks for measuring what is required for basic social benefits take internet access into account.

Other key findings include:

  • Digital inclusion is growing overall in Australia

  • Access is improving, but affordability (measured as a proportion of income) is decreasing – a worrying trend.

  • Many Australians are still missing out. Australians with low levels of income, education and employment are significantly less digitally included.

  • There is a clear digital divide between richer and poorer Australians.

  • There is an age gap: people aged over 65 are particularly disadvantaged, especially on measures of affordability, which is decreasing at a rate far above the national average. This is a clear policy problem, and reflects broad questions of income sufficiency as well as broadband pricing.

  • Indigenous digital inclusion is low and unevenly increasing at a rate below the national average. More research is needed to develop better data about the experience of people in remote Australian communities.

  • People with a disability are substantially disadvantaged, although inclusion is increasing at a rate above the national average.

You can read the full report for more details.

Notes:

The data is based on Roy Morgan’s ongoing face-to-face surveys of 50,000 households across Australia (RMR Single Source survey).

Further reports are planned for 2017 and 2018.