The digital economy generates social, cultural and economic benefits for Australians, but we know these benefits are not equally shared. Over two and a half million Australians are not online, and many are not able to take full advantage of online services.
Digital inclusion is based on the premise that everyone should be able to make full use of digital technologies and the benefits they bring, whether it be managing health and wellbeing, accessing education and services, organising finances, or simply connecting with family, friends and the world beyond. This year, through both the 2019-20 Australian Bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen first-hand the importance of staying connected.
As an organisation responsible for enabling so much of this connectivity, and as one of Australia’s largest companies, we are living the digital transformation on the front line. We have seen unprecedented disruption, and with this unprecedented opportunity to step up for our communities and build a connected future so that everyone can thrive.
From March to June 2020, we helped around 2.6 million customers to stay connected through the COVID-19 pandemic.
At Telstra, digital inclusion is our core business. We are focused on supporting those in our community most at risk of digital exclusion. This year we helped around 900,000 vulnerable customers to stay connected, and 23,000 people to receive digital capabilities training. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic we also delivered a Mental Health Relief Package through Telstra Foundation to fast track and enhance online mental health support for young people across Australia.
Digital access is one of the key prerequisites to inclusion. Every day, our networks connect millions of people. Our mobile footprint stretches across more than 2.5 million square kilometres, vastly more than any other mobile network in Australia, reaching 99.5 per cent of the Australian population. While this is significant, we remain acutely aware that many smaller communities do not enjoy the connectivity benefits enjoyed by those in metropolitan areas. That’s why we have invested $3 billion in our mobile network in regional areas over the past five years, and built around 700 new sites to improve coverage for regional areas through the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program.
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 2020 Sustainability Report.