New report shows many Australians can’t afford digital services

Wednesday 18 September 2019

In general, Australians with low levels of income, education and employment are significantly less digitally included.

In summary

  • The Centre for Social Impact Swinburne is one of two university partners to develop and produce the Australian Digital Inclusion Index, alongside Telstra
  • The Index is a benchmark for measuring digital inclusion in Australia
  • Key findings from the 2019 Index show affordability of digital services remains out of reach for many

Findings from the fourth Australian Digital Inclusion Index, co-developed by the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, show affordability is a key barrier for improving digital participation in Australia.

The Australian Digital Inclusion Index measures Australians’ online participation through three measures – access, affordability and digital ability. It looks at trends across demographics including age, geography, socio-economics, people with a disability and Indigenous Australians. 

The Centre for Social Impact Swinburne and RMIT University’s Digital Ethnography Research Centre developed and produced the Index in partnership with Telstra and Roy Morgan.

Affordability is a key barrier for digital inclusion

While digital ability and access to services has improved on the previous year, the affordability gap between high and low income households remains.

Director of the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, Professor Jo Barraket, says more is needed than just having access to cheaper services.

“We know that until household incomes at the lower end improve, the notion of affordability of digital services remains out of reach for so many people in Australia. Until this happens we can expect the affordability gap to only worsen over time.”

Telstra Group Executive Legal and Corporate Affairs, Carmel Mulhern, says digital inclusion is more important than ever as more services are digitised.

“Technology and connectivity are an essential part of staying in touch…there are 800,000 Australians who don’t have an email address, 1.3 million households not connected to the Internet, and one in 10 who don’t own a smart phone.”

RMIT lead researcher, Professor Julian Thomas, says digital inclusion is a complex and persistent problem.

“The Index provides a vital evidence base which can help us develop positive strategies to ensure all Australians gain the benefits of the digital economy.”

Other key findings of the 2019 Australian Digital Inclusion Index

  • South Australia recorded the largest improvement in overall digital inclusion.
  • In general, Australians with low levels of income, education, and employment are significantly less digitally included.
  • The gap between the most digitally included age group (people aged 25-34 years) and the least digitally included age group (people aged 65+) narrowed for the first time since 2014.
  • Supplementary survey research suggests digital inclusion for Indigenous Australians diminishes with remoteness, particularly with regard to access and affordability.
  • The Index reveals substantial differences between Australians living in rural and urban areas.
  • More than four million Australians access the internet solely through a mobile connection, often linked with socio economic factors including low income, unemployment and low levels of education.

To view the full report, visit the Australian Digital Inclusion Index website.