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Bush left behind on digital inclusion

A new report on digital inclusion has found the gap between capital cities and other parts of the country is widening - particularly on key measures like affordability.

Telstra’s Measuring Australia’s Digital Divide: The Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2016, released today, outlines the extent of the growing digital divide in Australia. The ADI index measures access (internet access, frequency and data allowance), affordability (share of household income spent on internet access) and ability (basic skills and confidence, attitudes and activities).

The data reveals differences between rural and urban areas, and this ‘geographic digital divide’ is largely due to gaps in Digital Ability and Affordability.

Digital inclusion is now 6.6 points higher in capital cities than in country areas (56.8 versus 50.2). The overall ‘Capital–Country gap’ has widened marginally over time (from 6.0, to 6.7, to 6.6), but this trend is not consistent across the three sub-indices.

Nationally, the Access gap for Capital–Country has actually narrowed marginally (from 6.9, to 6.0, to 5.9), while the Affordability (from 5.3, to 6.2, to 7.2) and Digital Ability (5.4, to 7.8, to 6.7)
gaps are widening.

Australia’s least digitally included regions are NSW’s Hunter region (41.2), North West Queensland (43.4), Northern Victoria (43.8), Eyre in South Australia (45.6), Southern Tasmania (45.7), and much of regional WA (‘Other WA’, 47.4).

Regional Australians shouldn’t miss out on access to government services
Stephen Jones

Labor’s Regional Communications spokesperson Stephen Jones has warned that the Coalition must take immediate steps to address the growing digital divide between urban and regional Australia.

"Increasingly, governments and private enterprise have a default setting for service offerings: it’s all online. If you are paying more or lack online capability you are not only excluded from economic opportunity – you are increasingly excluded from basic services," Mr Jones said.

"The findings will be particularly alarming for households and businesses outside of major cities given that the Government has a poor record when it comes to addressing digital inclusion in remote, rural and regional Australia.

"Regional Australians shouldn’t miss out on access to government services and all of the many benefits that should flow from a more equitable access to digital service," Mr Jones concluded.

The National Farmers' Federation has been consistently campaigning on the issue of regional connectivity, and is using a current review of the Universal Service Obligation to improve funding available for digital infrastructure in the bush.

What do you think? Is the Government doing enough to improve digital inclusion in your area? You can join our campaign to end the data drought here.

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