Opinion | Cecily Michaels, Leep CEO

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The digital divide in Australia: what more needs to be done?

Everyday life continues to be more difficult for people who aren’t confident using technology. In fact that disadvantage is quickly growing as more of our lives and access to the services we need moves online. Leep has been working to close the digital divide and reduce social and economic exclusion by delivering volunteer powered digital mentoring programs for nearly six years.

The recent ABC news article Smartphones Creating Generational And Income Divide, November 18, 2019 highlights one of the key changes we’ve experienced during this period. People are now choosing to come to digital mentoring out of necessity rather than curiosity.  Volunteer programs like Newcastle Computer Pals (member of the Australian Seniors Computer Club Association), featured in this article, are one of many organisations playing a vital role in ensuring Australians are not being socially and economically excluded from the modern world.

The Australian Digital Inclusion Index reveals negligible improvement in digital skills amongst Australians over the past 4 years.  This is despite a significant investment in 2017 by the Australian Government to fund the Be Connected program, targeting people over 50 years through a range of one off grants, a network coordinator and eLearning resources.

Whilst Leep commends the government for this valuable program we encourage their consideration of the recommendations from the Digital Mentors: The Heart of the Digital Revolution forum hosted by the Digital Inclusion Working Group in Sydney on 26 July 2019.  These recommendations include: the importance of a national awareness raising campaign like Life Be In It that highlights the importance of digital inclusion for all Australians and an injection of new funding into programs that offer long-term digital mentoring and ensure their sustainability, visibility and availability for all who need them.

Let’s all work together to close the digital divide and Imagine Tomorrow Together.

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