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Bridging the digital divide between rural and regional

This year Telstra are planning to extend their digital training for Seniors into rural and regional areas, as well as South Australia and Tasmania.
This year Telstra are planning to extend their digital training for Seniors into rural and regional areas, as well as South Australia and Tasmania. VickiYenPhoto

TELSTRA'S push to improve older Australian's access to the internet and the skills to use it, will drive change this year in the Tech-Savvy's Seniors program and increases in services in regional areas.

Recognising that Australians aged 65 and over continue to be the least digitally engaged of the population, Telstra are committed to continue its TSS program in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, and is looking to expand into other states.

The Swinburne University of Technology Institute's Australian Digital Inclusion Index report, commissioned for Telstra and released in August 2016, reaffirmed the importance of programs such as the TSS as the digital gap between older and younger generations remains steady.

Telstra's general manager for digital inclusion, Nancie-Lee Robinson said, "What it showed us is that seniors are the biggest group in terms of all of the possible groups in our community represented, as not yet online and enjoying the benefits of being online".

It also found the ACT had the highest digital inclusion rate and Victoria was improving the fastest.

However, South Australia and Tasmania did poorly on the ranking.

"We will look at how we can build partnerships and focus our efforts there," Ms Robinson said.

In identifying who is sitting in the 'digital divide', the report highlighted the extent of the rural, regional divide in skills and older Australians.

What it also found was a significant difference between rural and urban areas.

"Nationally, digital inclusion is now 6.6 points higher in capital cities than in country areas.

"The 'Capital-Country gap' has widened overall, but not everywhere.

"This 'geographic digital divide' is largely due to widening gaps in digital ability and affordability, while the access gap has narrowed.

"Regional and local initiatives are needed to address the geographic digital divide," the ADII report stated.

Telstra are using these findings to turn its digital focus on rural and regional communities.

"We will be doing a roadshow to different communities where we know there is a need, building awareness around the importance of digital inclusion and digital literacy, and provide training and support on the ground there," Ms Robinson said.

The first roadshow in NSW will be in May with senior-focused coaching sessions delivered in 10 regional locations.

Topics:  australian digital inclusion index general-seniors-news technology tech savvy seniors


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