The WA Government has invited public feedback on a draft Digital Inclusion Blueprint, which will outline strategies to enhance connectivity and improve digital literacy for Western Australians.
The final Blueprint would address longstanding connectivity and digital literacy gaps across the state, providing mechanisms to improve WA residents’ access to tools and technologies, as well as relevant resources, to help grow and refine their digital skills.
WA currently sits below the national average for digital inclusion, resulting in harmful flow-on effects to disadvantaged individuals, the draft Blueprint states.
According to the 2019 Australian Digital Inclusion Index, three million Australians are considered “digitally excluded” today. WA currently ranks fourth out of Australia’s eight states and territories for digital inclusion.
The Index revealed that WA’s most vulnerable groups are also its most digital excluded, including individuals from low-income households, senior citizens, those without secondary schooling qualifications, the unemployed, and people with disability.
The current 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,” said Innovation and ICT Minister Dave Kelly.
Initiatives broached within the draft strategy include upgrading and expanding ICT infrastructure, the exploration of opportunities for “subsidised or repurposed” technology and telecommunication services, investment in community Wi-Fi hotspots, and the provision of accessible information resources to improve digital literacy.
It also includes initiatives to improve access for the vision and hearing impaired.
Digital inclusion is a key social justice issue worldwide.
It involves the use of technology to improve social inclusion, ultimately enhancing individuals’ quality of life, improving educational outcomes, and fostering economic wellbeing throughout society.
Globally, people spend six hours a day using the internet on average. Yet 11.6 per cent of WA residents do not even have access to the internet, with these numbers even higher amongst the state’s lowest income earners, according to Government figures.
Consequently, these individuals are not able to reap the benefits of connectivity, such as access to education, health, and economic opportunities present in the online world.
Low or no digital participation is also linked to “social isolation, loss of income, limited access to health, education and other government services, as well as social and economic disadvantage”, the draft Blueprint states.
The recent pandemic has also “further highlighted the challenges for those in our community who do not have ready access to these technologies”, stressed Minister Kelly.
Feedback from Western Australians will provide a more holistic view of the ways digital technology is utilised and required throughout communities, which can feed into further refinements of the Blueprint.
“I encourage community, industry, and not-for-profit stakeholders to help us better understand this important issue and ensure their feedback will contribute to a more digitally inclusive WA,” Kelly said.
WA government agencies, stakeholders and communities can provide feedback on the draft Blueprint online until September 18, 2020.