ALIA Blog: digital inclusion

Blog by Cathie Warburton, ALIA CEO 


Yesterday the Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2023 was launched by Telstra CEO Vicki Brady. This report is funded by Telstra and produced in partnership with RMIT and the Swinburne University of Technology. I attended a live stream of the launch in Canberra hosted by Heather Rae (Senior Advisor for Digital Inclusion and Sustainability) and was accompanied by our new Director, Events and Training Zola Maddison. Zola started with ALIA last week and will be based in Melbourne.

The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) measures the three key requirements of digital inclusion: Access, Affordability and Digital Ability. The ADII is based on the Australian Internet Usage Survey and is a recognised benchmark for assessing progress on digital inclusion in Australia. The higher the score the greater the digital inclusion.

This data provides evidence of where the digital divide is the greatest so policies and programs can support those most in need. For the first time additional samples for remote First Nations communities (through the Mapping the Digital Gap project) offer insight into the distribution of digital inclusion across these communities. A number of interactive dashboards allow you to dig into the data to really analyse how Access, Affordability and Digital Ability impact different groups.

Key findings
  • Digital inclusion at the national level continues to steadily improve with a score of 73.2 and the divide between capital cities and regional areas is narrowing. But the groups with the greatest levels of digital exclusion are falling further behind.
  • Mobile only users, those aged 75 years and older, those with lower levels of educational attainment, those on the lowest incomes, and people living in public housing all experience lower levels of access.
  • The digital ability gap is growing in line with wider social inequalities like employment, income and education. 
  • Digital ability is lowest in people aged over 65 and the gap is growing.  
  • People who are digitally excluded report a lack of confidence and concerns about scams and privacy as limiting their internet use. 
Public libraries and school libraries play a key role in bridging the digital divide because they provide:
  • Access to computers and wi-fi,
  • they are free and therefore Affordable, and 
  • they have professional staff who can work with people to build Digital Ability

In addition, libraries are well placed to support the most vulnerable in the community who are also those who are often digitally excluded.  In the Panel discussion following the launch libraries were recognised as part of the essential civic infrastructure for digital inclusion. ALIA will work with the government and the telecommunications providers to make sure libraries have the resources to maximise their impact and help close the digital divide.