Digital inclusion

Panellists: Julian Thomas (Swinburne Institute for Social Research), Catherine Middleton (Ryerson University) and Sora Park (News & Media Research Centre), Ellie Rennie (Swinburne Institute for Social Research), Gerard Goggin (MECO, Unversity of Sydney).

This panel will address issues related to digital inclusion, particularly in rural and remote communities.

Goggin’s paper will address the topic of Disability & Digital Inclusion: New directions in transforming inequalities. Disability is a relatively new part of digital inclusion, inequalities, and divides policy.  Disability is especially important because of its close associations with, and potential compounding, of social and digital inequalities. Also because of the particular issues disability and accessibility pose for digital technology. Yet, by the same token, disability also offers tremendous opportunities for focussing work in digital social transformations and social justice, and indeed more broadly re-imagining society. This talk discusses the state of the art of disability and digital inclusion, setting out an Australia and international research and policy agenda.

Middleton and Park’s paper addresses digital inclusion and engagement strategies in rural areas. Countries have implemented digital inclusion policies for several decades and the access gap has narrowed significantly. However, gaps in user skills and quality of uses persist particularly between urban and rural residents. The divergent uses after getting access to the networks have resulted in a new type of digital exclusion. In this presentation we examine rural digital exclusion issues in developed countries where infrastructure policies have largely been successful but still suffering from inequalities in connectivity.

Rennie’s paper extends the examination of digital inclusion in non-urban areas by exploring issues of cyber-safety in remote communities. The adoption of ICTs by remote-living Aboriginal people has been recent and rapid in areas where mobile internet is available. Some community members, however, see social media as a threat to community authority and stability, and some remote communities have gone so far as to reject the extension of mobile coverage because of cyber safety concerns. This Telstra-funded research suggests that there are particular mobile phone practices and internet uses among remote Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory that are leading to identifiable cyber safety problems. Some of these practices, and the resulting issues, appear to be different from those experienced by other segments of the Australian population, and may require new approaches.

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