Digital inclusion in Australia: an ongoing discussion

Australia saw its seventh Social Inclusion Week between the 21st and the 29th of last month, during which a series of events took place under their annual theme (2015’s theme was “Collaborate, Connect and Celebrate!”). The events are targeted at youth, persons with disabilities, seniors and Indigenous Peoples, among others.

The awareness that digital literacy provides is an essential step to ensure social inclusion of minorities and groups with specific needs has led to the development of multiple projects within the country. For instance, the Australian Communication Consumer Action Network has put in place the Digital Age Project, an initiative that helps older people learn how to use computers and go online. Another project, this one run by Infoxchange, is the Go Digi 4 year literacy program1 – it revolves around a series of main components, some of which are: their network (with stakeholders, including local governments and libraries, increasing the reach of the project); an online platform with resources, training and other useful information; and mentoring programs open to both people interested in learning and potential mentors.

In addition, Australian media has been focusing on the need to improve gender diversity in technology professions which is important for the development of the economy and society as a whole.

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) released a report not long ago entitled “The Promise of diversity – gender equality in the ICT Profession”, in which there is a depiction of the current state of the market, future challenges and recommendations to overcome them. Australian demand for ICT professionals is expected to increase by 100,000 placements in the near future. The current situation reveals that, unfortunately, women only make up 28% of ICT professionals and, to reap the benefits of the digital era and meet the demand for skilled individuals, women must be encouraged and supported to enter and stay in the industry.

“Gender equality is clearly an important principle and must be pursued. But in an era of growing shortages of skilled ICT people, there are also compelling economic and national wealth reasons why we need to increase the number of professional ICT women. Moving the gender numbers and ratios in the right direction will require collaboration across relevant stakeholders and a genuine commitment by individual employers to implement practical and effective workplace initiatives.” (The Promise of diversity – gender equality in the ICT Profession)

ACS’s report key recommendations revolve around the need for strong commitment from all stakeholders (government, employers, education institutions etc.) to strive for gender pay equality, establish targets and quotas, cultivate leaders and role models, support for girls and women ICT groups (such as Code Club and Go Girl), inter alia.

1 Go Digi’s target audiences are: seniors, regional and remote communities, Indigenous Peoples and others.

Additional Sources: Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Infoxchange, Go Digi, Australia Forum, The Australian, Financial Review

If you fancy some further reading on the matter, here is a link to the ITU report A bright future in ICTs opportunities for a new generation of women.