Addressing the digital inclusion gap

While many older Australians are embracing digital life through online engagement, there is a disproportionate number who do not have an understanding of digital and online technologies.

Currently, around 3.6 million Australians, or 19 per cent of the adult population, are aged 65 and over. Just 51 per cent of them are internet users. Some of them are digitally literate with the help of friends and family, but the ones who don’t have access to this help are effectively shunned by a world where businesses and essential services such as banking, finance, health care, utilities and payment systems are administered.

A digital inclusion and participation gap has been identified for older Australians in particular.

The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) highlights that Australians 65 and over experience the lowest levels of digital inclusion, and as digital technologies evolve, and services, information and communication applications continue to move online, this gap remains a pressing social issue.

To combat this digital participation gap, Swinburne Social Innovation Research Institute researchers partnered with Telstra and two Melbourne Councils – Boroondara and Knox – to try and find a solution.

The 60+ Online project aimed to develop a model for improving and sustaining seniors’ use of digital technologies through a series of problem-based, creative digital stories and social media workshops.

The project focused on sustaining seniors’ use of digital technologies by drawing on personal interests to produce digital stories, as well as address uncertainties regarding online security, privacy and sharing by engaging with social media platforms.

Unlike normal digital literacy programs that apply tutorial models building instrumental and operational skills, the 60+ Online project focused on digital stories and social media.

By targeting creative digital content production and social interaction, the 60+ Online model aimed to engage explicitly with seniors’ personal lives and community contexts.

The evaluation of the 60+ Online project demonstrated that teaching digital and social media skills to seniors was successful. Analysis of the interview and focus group data showed that seniors were largely interested and enthusiastic about sharing content that they had created and that this focus on individual content creation and online sharing may help to overcome some of the barriers that typically limit seniors’ participation online.

What do you think? Do you feel like you are keeping pace with digital technology or are you worried about being left behind?

Read the full report.

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Written by Ben

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