Digital inclusive communities have been identified as a necessary feature of the future of Australian society. As businesses and public recourses move online, those without access and knowledge of the digital world are left behind.
With the cooperation and sustained efforts by councils, organisations and communities, the impacts of the digital divide can be minimised.
What is Digital Geelong?
Digital Geelong is ‘a connected, digitally empowered and innovative community with enterprises at ease in the digital environment.’
A community that harnesses the power of digital technologies, through individuals and business, ensures a smooth transition into the digital era and maximises opportunities for those within its digital reach.
Digital inclusion means that each member of the community has equal access to technology and digital skill development irrespective of income, ability and disadvantage.
In many Australian communities there is a growing digital divide. For example, we know that:
- Most public housing tenants do not have the internet on at home
- Many people with limited incomes do not have computer equipment at home (particularly difficult for families with school age children)
- Many services, if not already online, will be soon
- Many older people (and some young) are afraid about online safety
- Many people believe technology is bad for social interaction
- Those people already suffering the effects of disadvantage are likely to be further marginalised by not having access to digital technology
For the City of Greater Geelong Council the first step was recognising that much of their municipality was still not digitally connected, and therefore disadvantaged both economically and socially. By understanding that a connected community is an effective community, the goal was simple; ‘to help people realise their online potential.’
“We have come a long way in understanding the digital needs of our Geelong communities and how to facilitate more opportunities for people to participate in an online world. Yet, the faster we grow the more people get left behind. Frontline Services such as Neighbourhood Houses, Libraries and Schools, are in a great position to assist their communities with access and support.” - Cathy Walker, Greater City of Geelong Council member
To date Council has held 12 pop-up community workshops throughout the Whittington area, installed free wifi in open areas, hosted PD’s on using the MyGov website and held training for teachers and volunteers interested in setting up Code Clubs for children.
“With successful attendance at Geelong NYDI 2016 events this year so far, we know the message is getting out there. Most of Geelong’s Community Services are actively seeking to know more about digital inclusion and what they can do! We look forward to spreading the message and assisting everyone to reap the benefits of a digital future.” - Cathy Walker, Greater City of Geelong Council member
Our own Digital Inclusion commitment is to ensure all Australian’s have access to affordable digital technology. To see the City of Greater Geelong Council taking steps towards a digitally inclusive community is a great example of the kind of work we expect to see from the 2016 National Year of Digital Inclusion initiative.
You can see a full list of events hosted by the City of Geelong on their website.