Directions for South Australia – Digital inclusion for all

“Digital inclusion is an important element of social inclusion; we must broach the widening digital divide to avoid compounding  disadvantage.” – Kelly Vincent MLC

Introduction:

Dignity Party believes digital inclusion is an important element of social inclusion, but it is clear that not everyone has access to digital technologies.  As more people, government and business services go online the digital divide widens and this exclusion compounds existing disadvantage.

Wi-fi is particularly important to those on the lowest incomes; with one in five Australians having a mobile phone as their only internet connection.  Given mobile data is the most expensive on the market, expanding access to free public wi-fi would allow those people to retain some level of connection whether or not they have phone credit.

In bad news for disadvantaged South Australians, the Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) – measuring household and personal use of technologies – found that in 2017 SA’s score lags well below the national average, only beating Tasmania.

Digital inclusion is linked to increased income, education and employment. It is imperative that the state government address access to, and affordability of, telecommunications technologies through development and implementation of a state-wide digital inclusion plan.

While the ADII measure is a valuable tool, additional funding to increase data collection from regional areas would help measure digital inclusion at a finer level, and help identify and target useful programs.

Funding for an audit of digital technology usage and literacy within the community services sector – many of which are assisting digitally disadvantaged South Australians – is vital.  Services aimed at overcoming exclusion must themselves be digitally literate and resourced to assist with digital inclusion.

It is equally important to ensure that those who are not digitally connected are not further disadvantaged; an offline service guarantee (providing shop-front, telephone and postage options) must be provided to enable easy access to all government policies and services.

SA’s prison population is a particular group excluded from access to digital technology. The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has developed an enclosed (offline), computer-based education system that enables prisoners to take pre-tertiary and undergraduate courses using notebook computers. Funding for a pilot project in SA will cease in mid-2018.  Dignity Party would like to see the continuation of the pilot project and, if successful, expansion of the program to aid prisoner rehabilitation and post-release opportunity.

Action:

Dignity Party believes in South Australia we must:

  • Develop and implement a state-wide digital inclusion plan
  • Expand provision of free public wi-fi, particularly in areas of disadvantage
  • Make all sa.gov.au websites free (unmetered data) to users
  • Provide an offline service guarantee for all government policies and services
  • Provide online education for prisoners enabling digital inclusion and enhanced post-release opportunity
  • Provide funding to the ADII to increase collection of SA regional data
  • Fund an audit of digital technology usage and literacy within the community services sector in SA and resource additional capacity.

Dignity Party OPPOSE digital exclusion of those who are already disadvantaged.

Dignity Party PROPOSE development and implementation of a state-wide digital inclusion plan to broach the widening digital divide.

Reference:

Thomas J, Barraket J, Wilson J, Ewing S, MacDonald T, Tucker J & Rennie E (2017) Measuring Australia’s Digital Divide: The Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2017, RMIT University, Melbourne, for Telstra.