As digital technologies play an increasingly central role in our lives, there remains a significant gap between those who are connected and those who are not. In FY19 we focused on consolidating the gains made over recent years to increase digital inclusion and ensure our new suite of products and services enhances this.
We are focused on supporting those in our community most at risk of digital exclusion. We do this by investing in our networks, particularly in regional and remote communities, and through our Everyone Connected programs. These programs keep people connected, especially when they’re doing it tough; ensure our products, services and information are accessible and easy to use; and, build the digital skills and confidence of our vulnerable and diverse customers and communities. Through the Telstra Foundation we are also providing young people with the skills and support to navigate the online world safely and confidently.
This year we helped around one million vulnerable customers to stay connected and trained almost 36,000 people through our digital capability programs.
We also continued to strengthen our network coverage across Australia. Of the $8 billion invested in our networks since 2016, more than $3 billion has been invested in regional Australia. While this is significant, we remain acutely aware that many smaller communities do not enjoy the connectivity benefits enjoyed by those in metropolitan areas.
Delivering more connectivity and better networks in these locations is no easy thing, particularly in a country as large and as sparsely populated as Australia. But Telstra is making every effort to lead the way. Of the 1,000 towers erected under the Federal Government’s Blackspot programme, 800 have been erected by Telstra, four times more than the rest of the industry combined. In addition, we have pioneered the use of new and more affordable technologies like satellite small cells, mobile boosters to increase coverage on the road, and introducing co-investment capital solutions.
We will not be able to connect every last person in the country, but our commitment is to listen, work cooperatively with councils and other stakeholders, and do our absolute best to bridge the gap between town and country better than anyone else.
For a detailed overview of our approach and performance in relation to this pillar of our strategy and related material topics, please see the Digital futures chapter of our Bigger Picture 2019 Sustainability Report.