Australia a ‘digitally-divided society’ finds global index

Australia a ‘digitally-divided society’ finds global index

Tenth overall, but 'deep disparities' within

Australia has been ranked as the tenth most ‘digitally ready’ nation, in a new index by Cisco and Gartner. But the research exposes a significant ‘digital divide’ between the states and territories, with Tasmania and the Northern Territory being left behind.

The Cisco Digital Readiness Index, released today, measured the digital readiness of 118 countries, based on seven metrics.

While Australia scored highly overall, the report revealed “deep disparities across the country” and “widespread unevenness”.

Those in the Australian Capital Territory were given a digital readiness score of 21.14, while Tasmania scoring 9.65 and the Northern Territory scoring just 4.80.

The score is based on metrics including: human capital (total labour force, adult literacy rate, population and years of schooling); basic human needs (life expectancy, mortality rate, sanitation, access to electricity); ease of doing business; and the start-up environment.

Other measures related to technology infrastructure such as the availability of internet and networking services, IT spend forecast, and subscriptions to fixed telephone and broadband; technology adoption like mobile device penetration, internet usage, cloud services spend forecast; and the investments being made by business and government investments, which included government success in ICT promotion.

“Despite a strong overall score, the benefits of digitisation need to be better shared amongst all Australians – we need to build a more digitally inclusive society,” said Ken Boal, vice president of Cisco ANZ.

“As governments, businesses and citizens increase everyday activity using online platforms, we need to make sure that everyone can participate equally to ensure all segments of society and the economy experience the benefits that digitisation brings – regardless of where they live,” he added.

Cisco made a number of recommendations for Australia to maintain its global ranking, including investing in vocational education focusing on digital, increasing ties between industry and academia, and developing the digital skills of government workers.

Most importantly however, Cisco says that human capital – measured by the quality of education, adult literacy and average years of schooling – in the NT must be improved.

“[The research] points to a very real need to invest urgently in human capital development in the NT,” the report states.

Failing to narrow the digital divide between states would likely see Australia slip in the global ranking, the report says.

“The challenges of remaining at the forefront of digital readiness are not insignificant, nor are they insurmountable, although they are made more challenging by the emergent potential for Australia to split into a nation of digital haves and have-nots,” it reads.

Other research supports this notion. Last year the second RMIT led Australian Digital Inclusion Index found that those who have lower levels of income, education and employment are far less likely to be online, as are Indigenous Australians and people with a disability.

The study found that while nationally, ‘digital inclusion’ has improved since 2014 when data was first collected, the disparity in scores between the advantaged and disadvantaged is growing.

In the Cisco research, the US was ranked the most digitally ready country globally, followed by Switzerland, Singapore, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Sweden, Korea, Norway with Australia in tenth place.

Within Australia, while the ACT was the ‘clear digital leader’, Victoria ranked first for ‘basic needs’ highly in ‘technological adoption’. New South Wales didn’t rank first in any category “despite being viewed as the commercial capital of the country” but ranked second in the country for business and government investment, ease of doing business, and for its start-up environment.

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