A digital inclusion Empowering all Australians

Main Article Content

Peter Walton


digital inclusion


Digital technologies now pervade every aspect of modern Australian society. Almost every aspect of how we live, work and play – from getting an education, accessing health care, communicating with friends to getting a job – is influenced by digital technology. In this era of rapid change, the trajectory of economic development, our future prosperity and our ambitions to be a socially inclusive nation will all be influenced by the increasing growth and reliance on digital technologies as a part of everyday life. Digital inclusion (and equality) is increasingly becoming one of the major social justice challenges of our time. Digital inclusion is vital to employment participation, economic development, educational achievement, social and civic inclusion, health and wellbeing.

Many people continue to be digitally excluded in Australia and, importantly, as technology changes there is a growing risk of a participation gap in terms of a person’s ability to engage with technology. At present, the response to such a major issue in Australia is fragmented and only occasionally addressed holistically. Comprehensive national research on this issue is limited, the longer-term costs of digital exclusion have not been fully explored, nor do we have a national plan to mobilise a whole of community effort that ensures that all Australians have the skills and opportunity to benefit from digital citizenship.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the current needs, challenges and benefits of digital inclusion in Australia. It explores how the concept of inclusion is evolving with changes in technology and to social structures. This article is a précis of a White Paper commissioned by Telstra. The aim is to advance our understanding of digital inclusion and introduce a more refined conceptual framework for defining and addressing digital equality.


Download data is not yet available.
Abstract 338 | PDF Downloads 18


ACOSS. 2012. Poverty in Australia: ACOSS Paper 194. Strawberry Hills, NSW: Australian Council of Social Services, 2012. Available from: http://www.acoss.org.au/uploads/ACOSS%20Poverty%20Report%202012_Final.pdf.
Allen Consulting Group. 2010. "Quantifying the Possible Economic Gains of Getting More Australian Households Online". Report by the Allen Consulting Group Pty Ltd for the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, November 2010. http://pandora.nla.gov.au/tep/128312
Australian Government. 2012a. Regional Telecommunications Review 2011-12 – Regional Communications: Empowering Digital Communities. Review of Government Policy. Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee, December 2011. Available from: http://www.rtirc.gov.au/files/2012/06/Regional_Communications-Empowering_digital_communities.pdf.
Australian Government. 2012b. "Social Inclusion in Australia – How Australia is faring". 2nd Edition, Australian Social Inclusion Board, Australian Government, 2012, Available from: http://www.socialinclusion.gov.au/sites/www.socialinclusion.gov.au/files/publications/pdf/HAIF_report_final.pdf .
Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2012. Internet Activity June 2012. 8153.0 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia, December 2012. Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8153.0
Kearney, A.T. 2009. Assessing the Economic Benefits of Digital Inclusion, 2009. Available from: http://www.digitalinclusion.net.au/sites/www.digitalinclusion.net.au/files/Assessing%20the%20economic%20benefits%20of%20digital%20inclusion_0.pdf.
ACMA. 2009. Adult Digital Media Literacy: Qualitative Research Report. Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), August 2009. Available from: http://www.acma.gov.au/webwr/_assets/main/lib310665/adult_digital_media_literacy_needs_research.pdf. The Case for Universal Digitisation, Booz & Co, 2013
Black, Rosemary; Atkinson, John. 2007. ACT Government quoted in ‘Addressing the Digital Divide in Rural Australia’. First presented at AusWeb 07, The 13th Australasian World Wide Web conference Available from: http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/aw07/papers/refereed/black/paper.html
Cole, Jeffrey et al. 2012. World Internet Project (Fourth Edition). World Internet Project, University of Southern California, 2012.
Comcast. 2012. Conquering the Digital Divide; Closing the Broadband Opportunity Gap. Internet Essentials from Comcast, January 2012. Available from: http://www.Internetessentials.com/sites/Internetessentials.com/files/reports/launchreport.pdf.
Chartered Institute of Taxation . 2012. "Digital Exclusion: A Research Report" by the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group of The Chartered Institute of Taxation. Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, April 2012. Available from: http://www.litrg.org.uk/Resources/LITRG/Documents/2012/05/digital_exclusion_-_litrg_report.pdf.
Crouch , Rennie. E. et al. 2011. "Home Internet for Remote Indigenous Communities". Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Sydney 2011. Available from: http://www.cci.edu.au/sites/default/files/mcummins/Home%20Internet%20for%20remote%20Indigenous%20communities.pdf.
DiMaggio, Paul; Hargittai, Eszter. 2001. From the ‘digital divide’ to ‘digital inequality’: Studying Internet Use As Penetration Increases. Working Paper #5, Summer, 2001. Available from: http://www.princeton.edu/~artspol/workpap15.html
Ellis, Katie. 2012. ‘It means inclusion: a creative approach to disability and telecommunications policy in Australia'’. Telecommunications Journal of Australia. 61 (2): pp. 25.1 to 25.8. 2012. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.7790/tja.v62i2.293
Ewing, Scott. 2013 . “The Digital Divide: Narrowing but Deepening.” Swinburne University, April 2013.
Foster, S; Burkowsi, A. 2007. Quoted in ‘Addressing the Digital Divide in Rural Australia’, Black, Rosemary and Atkinson, John. 2007. First presented at AusWeb 07, The 13th Australasian World Wide Web conference Available from: http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/aw07/papers/refereed/black/paper.html
Freshlands. 2007. "Digital Inclusion: A discussion of the Evidence Base". Prepared for UK Online Centres, July 2007, 35-40
Gilster, Paul. 1997. Digital Literacy. Wiley Computer Publishing, New York, 1997.
Helsper, Ellen. 2008. "Digital inclusion: an analysis of social disadvantage and the information society". Department for Communities and Local Government, London, UK, p.11. Available from: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/26938/
BBC News. 2010. “Internet Access Is ‘a Fundamental Right’.” BBC News, March 8, 2010. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8548190.stm.
Institute of Museum and Library Services. 2012. Building Digital Communities: A framework for action. Washington, DC: Institute of Museum and Library Services, University of Washington, International City/ County Management Association January 2012. 1
Isoquant Research. 2010. WiredCommunity@Collingwood: Final Evaluation Report. Melbourne: Isoquant Research, June, 2010.
Koss, Victor et al. 2013. “This is for Everyone”: The Case for Universal Digitisation, Booz & Co, 2013.
Lee, David. 2011. ‘The digital divide: the Australian Government's role in addressing 'ability'’. Telecommunications Journal of Australia. 61 (2): pp. 25.1 to 25.8. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.7790/tja.v61i2.211.
Lloyd, Rachel; Harding, Ann; Hellwig, Otto. 2000. “Regional Divide?: a Study of Incomes in Regional Australia.” Australasian Journal of Regional Studies. 6, no. 3 (2000): 271–292.
Martin, Allan. 2009. "Digital Literacy for the Third Age: Sustaining Identity in an Uncertain World" .eLearning Papers, Nº 12, February 2009. Available from: http://www.elearningeuropa.info/files/media/media18500.pdf .
Meredyth, Denise et al. 2006. "Wired High Rise: a community-based computer network: final report". Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Life and Social Sciences. Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology, 2006. oai:vtl.cc.swin.edu.au:swin:6271.
Morsillo, Robert. 2012. ‘Affordable broadband for all Australians’. Telecommunications Journal of Australia. 62 (5): pp. 80.1 to 80.16. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.7790/tja.v62i5.363.
Morsillo, Robert. 2013. ‘LIMAC Affordability Research 2002-12’ presented to ACCAN Affordability Forum, March 2013.
Nansen, Bjorn, et al. 2012. ‘Digital Literacies and the National Broadband Network: Competency, Legibility, Context’. Media International Australia 145 (November 2012): 64 – 74.
Norris, Pippa. 2001. Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty and the Internet Worldwide. Cambridge University Press, 2001
Notley, Tanya M; Foth, Marcus. 2008. "Extending Australia's digital divide policy: an examination of the value of social inclusion and social capital policy frameworks". Australian Social Policy 7, Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. July 2008. Available from: http://apo.org.au/research/extending-australias-digital-divide-policy-examination-value-social-inclusion-and-social-0
Perlgut, Don. 2011. “Digital Inclusion in the Broadband World: Challenges for Australia.” presented at the Communications Policy and Research Forum, Sydney, November 2011.
Pluss, M. 2003. “Geographical Dimensions of the Digital Divide - ICT Update.” Geography Bulletin 35, no. 4 (Spring 2003): 157–159.
Price Waterhouse Coopers. 2009. Champion for Digital Inclusion – the case for digital inclusion, 2009
Rigney, Lester-Irabinna. 2011. ‘Indigenous education: Creating classrooms of tomorrow today’ paper, first presented at Indigenous Education: Pathways to success, August 2011, 8.
Seale, Jane. 2009. Digital Inclusion. Research Briefing. Teaching and Learning Research Programme, University of Southampton, December 2009. Available from: http://www.tlrp.org/docs/DigitalInclusion.pdf.
Selwyn, Neil; Facer, Keri. 2007. "Beyond the Digital Divide: Rethinking Digital Inclusion for the 21st Century". Futurelab, 2007. Available from: http://archive.futurelab.org.uk/resources/documents/opening_education/Digital_Divide.pdf.
Sparks, Ian. 2009. “Internet Access Is a Fundamental Human Right, Rules French Court.” Mail Online, June 12, 2009. Available from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1192359/Internet-access-fundamental-human-right-rules-French-court.html.
Vinson, T. 2007. "Dropping off the edge: The distribution of disadvantage in Australia". Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services Australia, 2007.
Walton, Peter. 2013. "Digital Equality and Social Inclusion". Paper presented to ACCAN Affordability Forum, March 2013
Warschauer, Mark. 2004. "Of Digital Divides and Social Multipliers: Combining Language and Technology for Human Development". University of California, Irvine, 2004. Available from: http://www.gse.uci.edu/person/warschauer_m/docs/multipliers_1.pdf
Wynne, Maria; Cooper, Lane. 2007. "Digital Inclusion Imperatives Offer Municipalities New Social and Economic Opportunities". Power Up – The Campaign for Digital Inclusion, Microsoft, 2007, 4.