It is amazing to think of the technological and digital advancements that continue to be made.

About 10 years ago, many of the things we do on a daily basis did not exist. From ordering a taxi through an app, searching and booking accommodation in real-time, streaming music and video, and sharing our photos online with family and friends.

However, for many in our community, these technological and digital advancements can remain out-of-reach whether it is due to a lack of access, affordability or digital ability.

The 2019 Australian Digital Inclusion Index*, released today, is the most comprehensive picture of our online participation through these three measures.

Last week I spoke at ACCAN’s National Conference about the challenges their members face in navigating, accessing and paying for the services we can take for granted.

The themes discussed at the ACCAN event and what the 2019 Australian Digital Inclusion Index found are familiar. That is in the four years since we started measuring digital inclusion in Australia, affordability remains the one measure where significant improvements have not been made.

Although the nbn is assisting in improving access, the affordability gap between high and low-income households is at the same level as it was in 2014. Improvements to affordability are unlikely in the absence of a lower cost wholesale nbn broadband product.

Among other key findings of the 2019 Index:

  • In general, Australians with low levels of income, education, and employment are significantly less digitally included. There is consequently a substantial digital divide between richer and poorer Australians.
  • The gap between the most digitally included age group (people aged 25-34 years) and the least digitally included age group (people aged 65+) narrowed for the first time since 2014.
  • While the cost of internet data has gone down, households are now spending more money on internet services to account for higher usage. Expenditure on these services has increased faster than increases in household income.
  • Affordability is a particular challenge for Australians on low or fixed incomes because they have less discretionary income to spend.

Earlier this year we launched our new purpose:

The word ‘everyone’ speaks to our responsibility to make sure the benefits of today’s modern telecommunications environment are there for everyone.

We will use the findings of the Digital Inclusion Index to continue to help inform our policy positions, community programs and business efforts to boost digital inclusion in this country. And we encourage others to use this report in a similar way so we work together to reduce the gap.

More and more, technology and connectivity are essential for being a contributing member of society. It is sobering to think that there are still many of our community who are missing out on the vital benefits they need because they cannot connect.

As Australia’s oldest and largest telecommunications company we have a responsibility to ensure that access, affordability and digital ability improves.

You can download the 2019 Australia Digital Inclusion Index here.

*RMIT University’s Digital Ethnography Research Centre and the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University develop and produce the Index in partnership with Telstra and Roy Morgan.