NSW unveils inaugural digital inclusion strategy

digital inclusion

The NSW Government has announced it is developing the state’s first Digital Inclusion Strategy, designed to provide more “equitable opportunities” for people to access digital services and online technologies.

The strategy specifically targets people living in regional, rural and remote areas; socio-economically disadvantaged and culturally and linguistically diverse communities; people with disability; gender diverse people; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who are known to experience lower levels of digital inclusion.

The strategy will assist people to not only afford but engage with digital resources and technology, especially as a recent report Measuring Australia’s Digital Divide – Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2023 revealed 24 to 42 per cent of these groups can be described as “highly excluded from digital services”.

Data pooled from the Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII), the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and other sources shows that 60 per cent of Australians feel they are unable to keep up with rapid changes in technology; $66 million was stolen by online scammers in 2021 from Indigenous Australians, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and people with a disability; and 46 per cent of Australians feel the rising cost of living has impaired their ability to access online services.

“In an increasingly digital world and with a shift towards online service delivery, including digital identity, healthcare, banking and social care, it is critical that no one gets left behind,” Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government, Jihad Dib, said.

“We want to work towards a future where everyone in NSW, regardless of their age, background, or location, can access and use digital connectivity and technologies.”

“This consultation is important, and we want as many people as possible to have their say on digital services.”

The NSW Digital Inclusion Strategy, currently open for public consultation and contributions until 19 July, will inform an Action Plan and any future digital initiatives to be introduced to citizens, as well as their funding. It will also govern existing programs across NSW.

The NSW Telco Authority, as part of the NSW Government’s Connectivity Strategy, will lead the development and implementation of the strategy. Key stakeholder meetings, interviews and focus groups will also be held across the next three months to help shape the creation of the strategy, with a plan to be published in late 2024.

The strategy also comes after the results of the 2023 Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) report, which found:

  • “Almost one in four people in Australia is digitally excluded, when considering factors of access, affordability and digital ability.
  • Almost 10 per cent of the Australian population is highly digitally excluded. This means they can’t access or afford a reliable internet connection and digital devices or use them effectively to further their participation in social, economic, and civic life.
  • People aged 65-74 recorded scores of 12.1 points below the national digital inclusion average, while those over 75 scored 24.6 points below the national average.
  • Digital exclusion is closely linked to economic disadvantages and cost of living, with almost 30 per cent of low-middle income households in NSW indicating they had to limit mobile phone use due to financial stress; and
  • Households in the lowest income quintile are also less likely to have internet access (57 per cent) compared to those in the highest income quintile (82 per cent).”