Australia’s ‘digital divide’ is widening, with a new study finding there are still 2.5 million Australians not online.
Despite this, the results also show that, as a whole, Australians are spending more time online than ever before.
Released by Swinburne University and RMIT, the third annual Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) measures digital inclusion by analysing access, affordability and digital ability in different regions.
“What we’ve found is that nationally, digital inclusion is improving, but there is much more work to be done,” said lead researcher Professor Julian Thomas from RMIT.
“Poorer and more vulnerable communities are more likely to be digitally excluded, and are not enjoying all the benefits of being online.
“As an increasing number of essential services and essential communications move online, the divide is getting deeper.”
Regarding affordability, the report found that while value for money has improved with more data per dollar, households are spending a greater proportion of their income on internet connectivity.
And while data plans are costing Australians more, the increased financial investment has led to more people accessing the internet than ever before.
Affordability was a particular barrier for indigenous communities due to a higher prevalence of mobile-only connectivity.
The report also ranked groups with low digital inclusion.
Topping the list were household with an income under $35,000, followed by people with access to mobile networks only and then people aged 65+.
Rollout of the national broadband network (NBN) was found to have increased overall digital access in Australia.
This was particularly noticeable in Tasmania, where the NBN rollout is basically completed.
Tasmania had the greatest improvement to access out of any state over the past 12 months.
However, the results have left the Australian Labor Party feeling “deeply concerned” over the growing inequality in digital access.
Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Husic said that the results reflected the government’s digital transformation strategy.
“The only consistent feature of digital transformation under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has been stuff up after stuff up, wasting huge amounts of taxpayer funds - and leaving the general public in the lurch when they need online access to government," Husic said.