MEDIA RELEASE - INEQUALITY AND DIGITAL DIVIDE WIDENING UNDER TURNBULL GOVERNMENT - 1 AUGUST 2017

With Ed Husic MP, Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy, Member for Chifley.

Labor is deeply concerned about evidence of growing inequality around digital inclusion, as reported in The Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2017, released today.

A joint initiative of Telstra, RMIT University and Roy Morgan, the ADII shows substantial and widening gaps between digitally included and excluded Australians.

Across the nation, Australians with low levels of income, education and employment are significantly less digitally included. The ADII shows that people aged 65+, people with a disability and Indigenous Australians are particularly digitally excluded. There is still a ‘digital divide’ between richer and poorer Australians. 

While digital inclusion in Australia is improving, it is extremely worrying to see the gap widen between people in low and high income households, as well as between older and younger Australians, as the key digital inclusion measure of Affordability declines.

The ADII shows that even while internet services are becoming less expensive as the cost per gigabyte of data continues to fall, Australians are spending more time online and a growing proportion of their income on internet services.

As the internet becomes increasingly central in the lives of Australians, declining affordability has a disproportionate effect on households with less discretionary income to spend – already Australia’s more digitally excluded groups.

The ADII demonstrates that, unless action is taken, the digital divide will continue to widen.

Meanwhile, the Turnbull Government displays nothing but incompetence when it comes to securing Australia’s future digital economy and society.

“The Australian Digital Inclusion Index presents yet another set of benchmarks that demonstrate the Turnbull Government can’t get the basics right when it comes to digital participation”, Michelle Rowland said.

“Malcolm Turnbull is ploughing billions of taxpayer dollars into a 19th century copper broadband network, which is proving a disaster for residents and small businesses”, Ms Rowland said.

“The Turnbull Government has a very poor record when it comes to managing government digital transformation and this report reveals their failure to support the growth of digital skills across Australian communities,” Ed Husic said.

"A widening digital divide - made worse through an under-investment in digital literacy and skills - will only serve to hold back broader growth in Australia's digital economy,” Mr Husic said

Inequality is an economic problem, not just an abstract concept. It is the interests of all Australians, including government and industry, to tackle the digital divide as a matter of urgency.

Addressing inequality is Labor’s defining mission. There is an urgent need for action on digital inclusion and if Malcolm Turnbull fails to address it, then Labor will.