The Western Australian government has released a draft strategy on its plan to make the state more digitally inclusive.
Launched on Tuesday, the draft Digital Inclusion Blueprint states that 11.6% of WA households don’t have access to the internet, while 26% of the state’s lowest income earners don’t access the internet.
“Overall, WA sits below the national average for digital inclusion, ranking fourth out of eight Australian states and territories. This shows that many Western Australians do not access the internet or use digital technologies, and as a result, may be excluded from the opportunities and benefits enjoyed by others,” it says.
“In particular, we know that little to no digital participation is linked to social isolation, loss of income, limited access to health, education and other government services, as well as social and economic disadvantage.”
Digital inclusion enables delivery of better services to the community, which is “particularly important with the digital transformation of government services presenting more available, convenient and mobile channels” for locals, according to the blueprint.
It identifies four key priority areas for digital inclusion, with a range of strategies including:
- Design of online government services — migrate agency content and services onto WA.gov.au so all government sites are on one accessible source; review government online services standards to ensure government sites are accessible for everyone; promote use of audio-visual content for digital literacy training and information for the vision and hearing impaired; promote innovative technologies that improve accessibility for people with disability, the elderly, and other groups; support development of Aboriginal created, owned, and managed content to support digital engagement for Aboriginal communities; investigate government procurement options to support accessible ICT.
- Connectivity — repurpose government ICT hardware to support technology provision in communities; use excess government bandwidth for public community wi-fi and look at building community wi-fi installations; use existing infrastructure to improve broadband capacity in regional and remote areas; upgrade mobile and satellite services to fixed-line networks; promote internet as a utility in community housing; explore new technologies to enhance regional and remote connectivity.
- Affordability — provide unmetered access and reduced prices for gov.au and edu.au services; consider subsidising or repurposing technology and telecommunication services; improve the supply of ICT hardware and support for services in regional and remote communities; invest in community wi-fi hotspots to support mobile-only users.
- Skills — build digital skills for front-line public sector and local technical staff; promote digital literacy programs on WA.gov.au via an online digital inclusion hub; develop programs that build trust and engagement; develop digital skills training resources that address the specific needs of the public; foster industry partnerships to support the provision of digital literacy training and support; promote cyber safety awareness and training; provide digital skills training for government services and business.
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Innovation and ICT minister Dave Kelly called on community, industry, and not-for-profit stakeholders to provide feedback to help the government empower Western Australians to confidently and safely access digital technologies.
“The recent pandemic has further highlighted the challenges for those in our community who do not have ready access to these technologies,” he said.
“The draft blueprint outlines a strategy for government, community, and industry to work together to build on existing initiatives as well as develop new ways to improve digital inclusion for Western Australians.”