It can be hard to imagine a world without the internet and the wealth of information and resources it offers. The internet helps streamline our daily lives and connects us with the world around. But while it may seem second-nature to many, others still find it to be a totally foreign concept.
According to the Australian Digital Inclusion Index, there are three million digitally excluded Australians. Whether limited by access, affordability or digital ability – these individuals miss out on critical opportunities online.
Low-income people, the elderly and other vulnerable socio-demographic groups are disproportionately left out of the digital world. This creates a prominent “digital divide” and highlights that issues of digital exclusion are also issues of social justice. The need for equal access has developed into a new concept – digital inclusion.
What is digital inclusion?
Digital inclusion is the capability of individuals or groups to enjoy the benefits of being online and use technology confidently to improve their day-to-day lives.
Those who lack this capability are considered “digitally excluded”.
Digitally excluded people miss out on the social and economic benefits the internet provides. To combat exclusion, and create a more inclusive community, three elements must be addressed:
Access – the availability of the internet and connected devices.
Affordability – the financial means to get online.
Digital Ability – confidence to use the internet safely.
By making the internet more accessible, affordable and giving people the skills they need to use it we can bridge the digital divide and empower every individual to feel included online.
Why is digital inclusion Important?
Digital is unavoidable in our daily lives.
A quick Uber ride across town, a healthy dinner prepared using a recipe you found online, an email exchange with an old friend or claiming money back from Medicare online. These little interactions make a real difference to how we function in today’s society.
But to digitally excluded individuals – the challenges these online tools alleviate (like basic transportation and social interaction) can become major obstacles to overcome.
In fact, a report by Carnegie Trust concluded that loneliness, depression and economic deprivation were significantly higher among the digitally excluded.
How do we improve digital inclusion?
Good Things Foundation believes in a world where everyone can benefit from digital. To make that world a reality, we’ve spent years developing digital inclusion strategies and programmes to ensure we deliver the biggest impact within our communities.
First, we’ve found delivery is most effective when provided by local organisations who know their communities best. Organisations should offer free, one-on-one or small group support to effectively tailor learning. External support, resources and funding from organisations like Good Things Foundation are key to program success.
Secondly, organisations work best when championed by others who share their passion for digital inclusion. By building a network of community organisations, these organisations can learn together and support each other in program development and deployment.
Thirdly, these efforts must be championed on a national level. By working with government and other stakeholders, like the Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance, we can help shape policy to ensure that no one is left behind. And we can ensure that many more people hear about the benefits of digital, and can receive the support to improve their skills.
Through this tailored approach, we can directly address access, affordability and digital ability — maximising impact across those that are excluded. Ultimately, building a kinder, more connected world.