Tasmania still lagging behind on digital inclusion

The release of the 2023 Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) has revealed Tasmania is once again taking home the undesirable title of most digitally disadvantaged state in the country for the sixth time since 2016.

TasCOSS CEO, Ms Adrienne Picone, said the latest ADII report showed Tasmania remains at the bottom of the pile for digital inclusion, with an estimated 54,000 Tasmanians highly excluded from the digital world and around one-in-four Tasmanians locked out from fully participating in economic, social and community life.

“Tasmania has improved along with all other states but our digital inclusion score remains 3.2 points behind the national average and the lowest of all states,” Ms Picone said. 

“Tasmania also recorded the worst digital literacy and skills score in the country, which is having a profound effect in the broader community. 

“Digital access and the ability to use digital technologies is an essential part of daily life, in much the same way as access to other essential services such as electricity and water.

“There are also concerning trends borne out of the data, with Tasmanians with low levels of income, education and employment, those living outside of Hobart and Launceston, older Tasmanians, Aboriginal Tasmanians and those living in public housing, all reporting higher rates of digital exclusion than the rest of the population.

“Whether you’re looking for work, accessing government services, engaging in education or training, paying bills or connecting with your community and friends, so much of what we do day-to-day relies on a secure, internet connection and the skills to navigate the web.

“We hope the announcement in the recent State Budget of a new digital inclusion strategy, and a mechanism for bringing key stakeholders together to address this crucial issue, reflects a genuine commitment from the Government for improvement in this area, which has not been evident in recent years.

“Closing the digital divide requires a long-term investment, particularly in relation to digital skills and affordability for people on low incomes.

“TasCOSS recognises there’s a role for service provides and others to play, but the Tasmanian Government has primary responsibility for charting the course and driving investment to achieve a digitally included Tasmania.”

TasCOSS is calling on the Government to commit to the following evidence-informed proposals to address digital inclusion in Tasmania, including:*

  • Delivering on PESRAC recommendations to close the digital divide by setting clear, ambitious and achievable targets for improving digital access, affordability and ability — this must be more than incremental improvements in our ADII score.  
  • Introducing a Tasmanian Government telecommunications concession for low income households.  
  • Boosting investment in digital skills through a community-based network of coaches and peer workers to support priority groups, including people who have low literacy and numeracy skills.  
  • Working with NBN Co and telecommunications providers to develop a low cost broadband product available for all new social housing connections, including the supply pipeline of the new Homes Tasmania authority.  

* For more information and additional recommendations, please see Wellbeing First (pp. 30-33).