Home Home Tech Digital inclusion on the up, but more needed to bridge access, digital ability gap: report
Digital inclusion on the up, but more needed to bridge access, digital ability gap: report Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net Featured

Digital inclusion in Australia is continuing to improve but there are still areas in the community where more targeted investment and development is needed to ensure greater access to digital services, according to a new report.

The report, by Roy Morgan, commissioned by Telstra with RMIT University and the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University of Technology, found that while  progress on improving Australia’s Digital Inclusion is being made, there are significant demographic groups where investment is needed to bridge the gaps on access and digital ability in particular.

The nationwide annual survey of 50,000 in-depth personal interviews looked at three key elements of digital inclusion — access, affordability and digital ability — to produce the top-line scores for digital inclusion:

  • Access is about how and where we access the Internet, the kinds of devices we use and how much data we can use when going online.
  • Affordability is about how much data we get for our dollar and how much we spend on Internet services as a proportion of our income.
  • Digital ability is about our skill levels, what we do online, our attitudes towards technology, and our confidence in using it.

The survey looked at areas of digital including essential and community services and other interactions which are increasingly moving online, from paying bills to organising the next social outing and planning the day.

roy morgan peter

Nationally, Australia scored 73.4 on Access in the 12 months to March, up from 70.8 a year ago and up nearly 10 points since 2014.

And the survey found that the NBN rollout has had a positive effect on access as seen by the 2018 ADII results for Tasmania.

With the NBN rollout largely complete in Tasmania and between 2017 and 2018 there was a rise of 8 points in its digital inclusion score.

The Affordability score of 57.6 represents an increase of 2.1 points from a year ago, and while cost per gigabyte of data is falling, Australians are spending more time online and more money on Internet services.

inclusion peter

The digital ability score of 49.5 was the lowest of the three sub-indices digital inclusion index, but has improved significantly over the last four years, increasing by 7.3 points since 2014.

According to the report, the increases in digital ability reflect steady improvements in the three core components of digital ability including attitudes, basic skills and activities – and all three components have increased in every year since 2014.

And the Index reveals that employed Australians with a digital inclusion score of 65 not only have a higher level of digital inclusion than the average Australian (60.2), but also a higher level than unemployed Australians (60.9) or those Australians "not in the labor force" (52).

But, the report notes that this top-line view of Australians "not in the labor force" doesn’t show there are clear differences within that broad category which includes students not in employment (62.6), those conducting home duties (58.5), those who don’t work (50.9) and retired Australians (46.7).

Australians who "don’t work" or are "retired" are lower than the average Australian across all three sub-indices of access, affordability and digital ability, while the common characteristic that significantly lowers the overall digital inclusion scores for both categories is digital ability.

digital inclusion peter

The report reveals that Australians in the "don’t work" category have a digital ability of only 40.3 which is nearly 20% lower than the national figure for digital ability of 49.5 while retired Australians have a digital ability of only 32.6 – around a third lower than the national average.

The Index also found that:

  • Australians who have completed tertiary education have a digital inclusion score of 65 which is clearly higher than the average Australian (60.2) and much higher than Australians who have only completed secondary education (58.3) and those who did not complete secondary school (47.4).
  • When looking at age, Australians aged 25-34 years old have the highest digital inclusion of 66.5 just ahead of those aged 35-49 years old (65.4) and younger Australians aged 14-24 (64.5). Digital inclusion then drops below the national average for 50-64 year olds (58.1) and well below that for older Australians aged 65+ years old (46.0).
  • Australians with a below secondary education level and older Australians aged over 65 years trail the average Australian significantly by at least eight points across all three sub-indices of affordability, access and digital ability.
  • Australians in these two categories both have low access scores – over 12 points below the national average. Australians with a below secondary education level have an Access score of 60.8 while Australians aged over 65 years old have an access score of only 58.9 – both falling into the low range for this measure.
  • The digital ability of both Australians with a below secondary education level (32.2) and those aged over 65 years old (31.5) are both at least 17 points below the national digital ability of Australians (49.5).

Michele Levine, chief executive, Roy Morgan, says the Australian digital inclusion index (ADII) shows continuing progress made to improve access, affordability and digital ability across Australia with overall ADII improving over 10% in four years.

“The ADII measures progress on improving access to the Internet, the digital abilities of Australians encompassing online skills and activities, and attitudes to learning about new technologies, and the affordability for Australians taking advantage of growing digital infrastructure around Australia.

“The integration of these three variables into one digital measurement, the ADII, delivers an ongoing portrait of Australia’s digital inclusion. When assessed across demographics and geography, governments, industry bodies, and technology businesses are able to pinpoint and work to minimise the divide between the ‘haves and have-nots’ of digital inclusion.

“If affordability falls it will have a negative impact on the digital inclusion of Australians on lower incomes because they have less discretionary income to spend than wealthier Australians. In 2018 the affordability score of 57.6 represents an increase of 2.1 points from a year ago, and is now above the initial score of 56 in 2014. While cost per gigabyte of data continues to fall, Australians are spending more time online and more money on Internet services.”

Graphics: courtesy Roy Morgan


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).


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