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Digital inclusion: Understanding Australia’s digital divide

Sustainability

Posted on August 1, 2017

5 min read

The internet generates extraordinary social, cultural and economic benefits for Australians, but we know that these benefits are not equally shared. Almost three million Australians are not online, and many more are not able to take full advantage of online services. For those who are not connected, the consequences of exclusion are increasing as our essential educational, health, and social services move online.

The Australian Digital Inclusion Index provides our most complete picture yet of Australia’s digital divide. As a source of evidence and a guide for action, the Index shows us where digital inclusion is improving and where more needs to be done. The Index breaks digital inclusion down into three critical dimensions: access to data and internet services; affordability; and digital ability — the skills and capacities of users.

The latest 2017 data from the Index shows that across all these dimensions, digital inclusion is increasing in Australia. That is good news. But the Index results also show how the level of digital inclusion among Australians varies greatly. Across regions, and across our social and economic geography, there are groups of Australians who are substantially less connected than others. And in many cases, digital exclusion is linked closely to social exclusion and disadvantage. For some Australians — those who are older, and those on lower incomes — the gaps between them and others are increasing.

In our 2017 report on the Index we take a closer look at some groups of Australians who are less connected than others. This includes Indigenous Australians, for whom the gap has narrowed over the last three years, and Australians with a disability, who still have relatively low digital inclusion. We also looked more closely at  mobile only internet users, who have no fixed internet access. Of course, smart phones offer great advantages for users, but there are limits to what people can do with mobiles. Despite all the benefits of mobile internet, levels of digital inclusion are much lower for mobile only users than for Australians overall, with mobile-only consumers linked closely to socio-economic factors such as lower levels of income and employment.

 

The Index shows how the digital inclusion challenge is evolving – affordability and digital ability are clearly as important as access. Our findings on affordability may surprise some readers. The Index shows that the value of internet services has improved across Australia, meaning that data-per-dollar has increased each year for consumers over the four years of the survey. It’s important to note that when we measure affordability we are not only looking at the cost of data, we are also interested in the proportion of household income dedicated to this service. So, although prices have declined, Australians are using more data, increasing their number of services, and therefore spending more on the internet.

The result reflects the degree to which the internet has become an integral part of everyday life - we are doing more online; we are doing an increasing range of things online; and, in many households, we are connecting with an increasing number of devices. For middle income and better-off Australians, this is unlikely to be a problem. But for lower income households, especially those on fixed incomes, affordability is an important issue, and one we should monitor carefully.

Digital ability is another key area for discussion with the release of the 2017 Index report. What is digital ability? It’s what people can actually do online, and therefore how they can benefit from being connected. When we look at digital ability, we are considering people’s sense of control and security; their basic skills in accessing information and managing transactions; and their capacity in more complex tasks.

Our report shows that digital ability varies considerably across the population, but is generally improving from a low base. However, it is improving slowly, reflecting the challenges for many Australians in keeping up with technology. We believe that digital ability is a critical area for support and attention because we know that, with assistance, this is a domain where strong improvements are possible. Valuable programs are already making a difference — Telstra’s Tech Savvy Seniors is an example.

The value of the Index lies in the assistance it can provide in targeting and shaping future work. It can help guide future policy and action by improving the evidence base and sharpening our focus. As technology drives further transformations in life and work, digital inclusion will become an increasingly important issue for all of us.

 

Digital inclusion and Telstra

We believe that everyone – regardless of age, income, ability or location – should enjoy the benefits of being connected to modern communications technology. Telstra has long been focused on addressing digital inclusion and our Everyone Connected programs aim to empower all Australians to enjoy the benefits that new communication technologies bring.

In FY17 we reached more than 63,000 people through our digital literacy programs, including Tech Savvy Seniors training sessions for older Australians and InDigiMob, which is establishing a network of Indigenous digital mentors in remote Northern Territory communities. Through our Access for Everyone program Telstra helps people on a low income or facing financial hardship to stay connected, last financial year, the benefit provided by our programs for vulnerable customers was $87.7 million. Out Telstra Kids Digital Futures has been rolling-out more than 40 digital projects for young people in regional areas right across Australia, to build the skills they need in the future.

Find out more how we’re working to address the digital divide and Telstra’s Everyone Connected programs at https://exchange.telstra.com.au/digital-inclusion/.

 

Download the Australia Digital Inclusion Index Report at digitalinclusionindex.org.au/report.

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Seeing the future: what the experts are telling us

Tech and Innovation

Posted on August 1, 2017

3 min read

Recently we hosted the 10th Telstra Technology Day in Melbourne – an internal Telstra event where we invite global industry representatives to discuss some of the most important technology trends and how they will impact our business.

Here are a few interesting points from the discussion:

The Machines are Coming

  • The Network can play an important role in offloading the compute power from the connected devices to the Cloud.
  • All devices will be connected, from a power tool to a wind turbine, in order for the industry to gather data of their usage to generate insight about the product and its consumers.
  • Security is a main challenge, which in turn puts requirements on the network, end-to-end.

A New Reality

  • VR company Meta has thrown out monitors on desks for all its 140 employees, and instead everyone wears AR headsets to see as many virtual monitors as they need.
  • In the next three years, a typical AR headset will shrink from helmet size to a smaller, more appealing size. These devices will have a high impact on the PC and mobile industries and start replacing those devices (or at least replacing/complementing their screens) within 10 years.

Cyber Trust

  • With 500,000 new threats released on the internet every day, traditional anti-virus software doesn’t work anymore. Instead you need Machine Intelligence using math-based technology to predict and stop an attack, before something bad is happening.
  • Cyber risk management is not a problem to be fixed, it’s a condition to be managed.
  • The security industry is very fragmented and that requires a common platform for execution and a good Service Organisation for Operation. Open Source can provide the former and organisations like Telstra the latter.

Industry 4.0 and AI

  • With more connected devices than humans, and an increased compute power among all these devices, we are moving from human scale (all decisions made by human brain) to machine scale.
  • This revolution started in manufacturing but now there are no industries that are free from this disruption.
  • Our customers have an appetite to make better use of sensor data to improve and automate decision making.

The Future of Computing

  • The computing power needed for the AI challenges of the future requires a new kind of computer. Our classical computers just can’t scale to that level without overheating.
  • By way of illustration, a classical computer looking for a phone number would look at the directory list entry by entry to find a match, while a quantum computer would look at all entries in the directory in parallel.
  • The global race is on to be the first to achieve a 50 qubit computer, which will outperform a classical computer with 14 billion transistors. Today we are at a few qubits, and they have to operate at just above 0 Kelvin (-254 Celsius), and the computer is stable only for a few seconds.
  • It will likely up to a decade before we have a practical quantum computer, which in turn will require programming skills that are very different from the ones used for classical computers.

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eCommerce and interactive gaming exploding, shows digital report

featured Business and Enterprise

Posted on July 27, 2017

4 min read

The Internet is in better health than ever. There are about 3.4 billion Internet users globally – about half the world’s population – many of whom are living a digital life. They are going online to watch movies, listen to music, play video games and they’re buying more than ever – so says leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist Mary Meeker in her annual Internet Trends report.

Each year, Meeker gives a breathtakingly comprehensive overview of the state of the Internet covering topics from smartphone growth and media habits to online advertising and how digital is influencing industries such as healthcare.

One key highlight that emerged is interactive gaming – a US$100bn business with 2.6bn gamers. In the 80s, gaming was about a solo gamer playing Pacman or Mario. Today it is a shared experience, with more people playing online than ever. Gamers take part in competitions, held in arenas watched by 1000’s with millions more tuning in online. 161m fans watch eSports monthly, a 40% hike from 2015. Meeker highlights gaming in particular, as techniques learnt can impact people’s lives. Games can be used in simulations to train fighter pilots and hone athletic skills, teach pattern recognition or let people learn by repetition.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Voice searches are on the rise, with 20% of all queries made this way with an accuracy rate of 95%.
  • Global growth of smartphones is slowing, up only 3% from last year, down from about 27% and 11% in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
  • E-commerce continues to skyrocket, as demonstrated by parcel volume. In the US it topped 10bn last year, up 9% year on year. In fact, the unboxing of parcels has become entertainment in itself with the top 5 unboxing channels on YouTube attracting 33m subscribers in May 2017.
  • Eating in is the new eating out. Many high-end restaurants are now providing home delivery service.

Developing countries embracing digital innovation

In China, huge leaps have been made in online transportation and mobile payment technology.

  • The number of on-demand trips booked online reached 250m for just one quarter, more than anywhere else in the world.
  • China also leads the way in mobile payment innovations, with the big players Alipay and WeChat allowing customers to make everyday transactions with their smartphones.

India has experienced huge growth in eCommerce and in the smartphone space.

  • New mobile players have been opening up competition, with carrier Reliance Jio giving away free data and stealing millions of customers in the process. This has helped overall smartphone adoption in the country.
  • It’s also competition that is making eCommerce a huge business in India, with local players like Flipkart and Snapdeal going up against global giants Amazon.
  • What distinguishes India from the rest of Asia is the government’s pro-digital policies. Among them is a rollout of high speed broadband. Digital authentication via a smartphone for the 1bn+ population has been introduced (ahead of developed countries like Singapore), with 16 million authentications being carried out each day for transactions such as the opening of bank accounts.

While the report is silent on the rest of Asia, the trends are similar. Every Asian country has seen growth in Internet usage and users. As a result bricks and mortar retailers are struggling, replaced by e-commerce, where Asian brands like Taobao and Lazada rival Amazon. On-demand video and music has replaced TV and CDs and all countries are moving to high speed broadband with governments leading the way in digitising services.

For Asian observers, there are three areas that could be interesting to global brands and entrepreneurs.

  • Ad blocking is high in Asia. Indonesians block more ads than any other country (58% of mobile users), followed by Pakistan (38%). ‘Lite’ web and app versions of ads should be developed to avoid hogging bandwidth. They must also be optimised to work on slower 2G and 3G networks, which are still operating in Asian emerging markets.
  • Traffic congestion in major Asian cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta present opportunities for entrepreneurs. Consumers are likely to be discouraged from out-of-home shopping, opening up e–commerce opportunities from home delivery to health care.
  • As a spin-off from the popular on-demand transportation services, other areas like handyman services, personal shopping and fitness are areas with potential.

Carriers will play a crucial role for digital services to work smoothly and without interruption. Who wants a dropped wifi connection just before buying the new pair of shoes? For digital services to work smoothly, network bandwidth is key. Carriers must ensure good coverage, offering high reliability and scalability especially with the explosion in digital entertainment and on-demand services in transportation and home services.

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New features coming to your smartphone in 2017

Tech and Innovation

Posted on February 24, 2017

4 min read

With 2017 Mobile World Congress kicking off this weekend in Barcelona some of the biggest players in mobile are primed to reveal the latest smartphone technologies and flagship devices.

I’m just about to board a flight to this year’s event — which is the industry’s largest talk fest and sets the agenda for the year ahead.

Here’s some of the innovations and advancements you can look forward to in smartphones in the year ahead – which are likely to take centre stage at this year’s Congress.

1. Pushing design boundaries with edge-to-edge screens

Us Aussies are voracious consumers of mobile video on the go. Previously we’ve seen smartphone manufacturers cater to the streaming video revolution by increasing phone sizes to give us a larger screen. This year they will push the boundaries with edge-to-edge screens, making the most of the real estate available on the device. This will make for an even more immersive experience when viewing video and using VR. It will also produce some very eye-catching designs.

Also, expect to see water and splash-proofing (a favourite amongst the active and clumsy smartphone alike) to become mainstream among high end smartphones – and the peace of mind feature will also start to find its way into mid-range smartphones.

Headphone jacks. Few topics stimulated more conversation in smartphone design last year than the future of the 3.5mm headphone jack. The attraction of switching to a single USB-C connection for charging and audio from a design perspective is clear – slimmer smartphones with more space to pack in new components. The question is which manufacturers will make this switch and how they will make the transition easy for customers.

2. Gigabit LTE

2017 has already seen Telstra usher in the gigabit LTE era, with this super-fast smartphone mobile data technology finding its way into smartphone models and the hands of our customers for the first time. It will bring us one step closer to 5G and the ultra-fast speeds will help us embrace things like immersive virtual reality and rich entertainment content experience such as 4K high definition video streaming.

3. Next-Gen Calling
Voice calling might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of smartphone trends for 2017, but Voice over Wi-Fi is the next step in giving customers a seamless calling experience, particularly those who live in areas affected by mobile black spots or experience poor mobile coverage in their home or apartment building.

Native Wi-Fi calling technology will be a standard feature for new smartphone devices launched in `17, and as the technology is rolled-out with smartphone operating software updates more of our customers will be able to make and receive calls wherever there is a Wi-Fi connection, including over 750,000 Telstra Air hotspots across Australia.

4. Virtual Assistants
Voice recognition technology has been around for years. But this year artificial intelligence and voice recognition will come together to turn more smartphone models into virtual assistants.  This means you’ll be able to have a natural conversation with your smartphone to get advice on day-to-day activities such as appointments and traffic as well as searching the world-wide-web using nothing but voice control. And expect to see a boom in integration between virtual assistants and third-party apps as ecosystems mature – making your smartphone an even more helpful companion.

5. Mobile in the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the capacity to transform our lives from the home, to the office and beyond. By 2020 the average Australians is expected to have 29 or more connected devices, and this is the year that IoT will start to scale. Many IoT applications will be accessible from your smartphone screen. Take ‘trackables’ as an example. With this IoT technology you’ll soon be able to attach a mobile locator the size of a 50c piece to your pet’s collar, your keys or your luggage when travelling and keep tabs on it from your smartphone.

This is just a taste of the innovations I expect to see at this year’s World Congress. No doubt there will be plenty of surprises to share.

We’ll be providing updates on the biggest announcements and reveals from Mobile World Congress. You can keep up to date by following us @Telstra_news.

 

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Broadcasters go OTT at NAB

Telstra News

Posted on May 4, 2016

4 min read

The recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas was, as always, loaded with new ideas and toys. Ooyala’s Videomind editor, Jim O’Neill takes a look at what will shape the way we create, watch and share video content.

Las Vegas. The meeting place for the world’s media industry lived up to expectations with an estimated 100,000 delegates from over 160 countries; over 1700 companies in excess of 1million square feet of convention centre space.   Both Ooyala and Telstra Broadcast Services were there – with booths in the Silver Parking Lot and the South Upper Hall respectively.    While the South Upper and Lower Halls remains the nexus for new technology relating to all things over-the-top, a number of new entrants eat up whatever available space remains.

So what did we learn this year?

Broadcasters – finally – officially buy into OTT

This year, it was clear that broadcasters are all in and looking for ways to go over-the-top as quickly as they can in as many ways as possible. And it’s not just the big networks, smaller market players are looking to go over-the-top live with their news shows, weather, local sports coverage and their morning shows. Their big worry, as usual, is monetization. There is no longer concern about cannibalizing their “prime” (OTA) audience, instead they were far more concerned about how to reach Millennials and their following generation.

Not everyone is on board the 4K train

High Dynamic Range content (HDR) and new media was trending with broadcasters, who are still not as committed to 4K (super high resolution). This isn’t a matter of them having their “heads in the sand,” as they were with OTT it’s much more a matter of their skepticism about whether or not that consumers are eager to join the 4K revolution. While sportscasters are more willing to jump onboard, it may take a lot longer for broadcasters to adopt what many of them currently see as a gimmick driven by a small segment of the industry (and CE manufacturers).

Mobile news delivery

Social media held center stage at NAB (Facebook and Twitter) with many panels focusing on mobile phone news delivery (to Millennials), political commentary and opinion being delivered and readily consumed by an even broader audience on mobile devices, and, of course, the increasing availability of live being key. The amount of conversation discussing Twitter’s deal with the NFL (for a rumoured bargain price of $10 million) was staggering, and everyone was using Facebook Live to post content from panels, keynotes and even, ahem, social gatherings.

‘Discovering’ good content is key

As more content moves online, more solutions are being launched to help viewers find it easily. The “magic” of Netflix’s 80% success in recommending [x] content was the mantra of any number of speakers on panels, which defined the success of OTT as the ability of viewers to find content easily. You could see that competition is hot in this space as there were a ton of solutions being shown in meeting rooms all around the convention.

Virtual reality vs reality

While VR continues to grab headlines, questions remain as to whether it’s the “Next Big Deal” or just the next 3D, ie., flop. I’ve seen it before, and I’ll say it again… when the technology is something you step into rather than wear, it will be adopted wholesale, but until then, it remains a niche product (gamers, for example, will adopt, but they’re just not convinced anyone else will – especially if it involves a bulky wearable).

Watch Beet.TV’s Andy Plesser chat with Ooyala’s vice president of products and strategy, Jonathan Wilner to discuss the evolution of over-the-top television as reflected at NAB.

This video originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

This post originally appeared on Ooyala’s Videomind blog.

Ooyala is an independent subsidiary of Telstra.

Tags: technology, trends,

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