Conversations begin to close the digital gap

By Jackson Graham

Friday September 24, 2021

Federal Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt said access to digital technology was closely linked with economic growth and social connection
Federal Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt said access to digital technology was closely linked with economic growth and social connection. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

There’s a gap that needs to close for Indigenous Australians in the technological and virtual world, according to a new government report.

A federal discussion paper flags digital inclusion for Indigenous Australians — across access, affordability and digital ability — as being below the national average. 

The paper comes as the National Indigenous Australians Agency prepares for workshops and consultations in October that will inform an Indigenous Digital Inclusion Plan. 

The plan, which a 2018 review recommended the government undertake, will consider barriers to communication services, access to devices, and varying levels of digital literacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. 

The paper uses data from the Australian Digital Inclusion Index but notes that few organisations, including the ADII, measure specific digital access data for Indigenous people and information is lacking for remote areas. 

“Capturing data on digital inclusion for Indigenous Australians in the three focus areas of access, affordability and digital ability will inform policy-decision making, and program and resource design,” the paper says. 

However, Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2016 shows just three-quarters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households access the internet with smallest numbers in remote areas. 

For all Australians the census figure is 85%, according to the paper.  

Federal Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt said access to digital technology was closely linked with economic growth and social connection and was particularly essential because of COVID-19. 

“Digital technology encourages entrepreneurialism, wealth creation and economic advancement – it’s about closing the gap and taking the next step after that,” Wyatt said. 

“That is why we are developing a comprehensive plan to address the barriers to digital inclusion.”

Digital inclusion also forms part of the national agreement to close the gap, which set a 2026 target for improvements to access to information

“The momentum of the Closing the Gap process provides an opportunity to work with Indigenous Australians, across governments and with industry to develop a meaningful plan and co-ordinate our investments,” Wyatt said. 

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications is also providing assistance with the plan in close consultation with Indigenous organisations, businesses and communities.


READ MORE:

The latest evidence on digital literacy inclusion in education

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