The difference between an Indigenous Australian’s digital literacy and that of a non-indigenous Australian is significant and is becoming a growing concern. Also known as the ‘digital divide,’ this gap refers to; access to devices such as mobiles and computers, availability of network and internet connection and basic literacy skills regarding the use of technology (Samaras, 2005 pp. 86).
White colonisation of Australia in 1788 had consequences, and continues to devastate the Indigenous population of Australia as they suffer severe disadvantages in; literacy, education, income, employment, health and housing (Samaras, 2005 pp. 85). The disadvantage that is growing exponentially however, is the digital literacy of indigenous Australians. This is neither a recent issue nor surprising, but what is the main concern is where they lie in the equation as society’s dependence on technology also grows exponentially. Kim Andreasson articulates this in her text, ‘Digital Divide,’ “they will be missing out on far more in education, health, e-government, commerce, communication and entertainment” (Andreasson, 2015 pp.108). Hence, this is a major issue for Australia, as a poor digital literacy for the Indigenous community affects all aspects of their health and lifestyle.
This issue impacts rurally located Indigenous Australians the most, particularly those living on outstations. The ‘Home Internet Project’ studied three outstations closely for two and a half years and their initial research found that across the community, 6 in 10 adults had never used the internet, and three quarters of those who had engaged in online activity were below the age of thirty (Rennie et al. 2016 pp. 14). Despite the extent to which rural Indigenous community are affected, the ‘divide’ exists nation-wide. In Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory, in 2011, twenty-seven percent of the population were Indigenous and of that percentage, thirty-one percent did not have internet access (Andreasson, 2015 pp.115). This astonishing figure illustrates the extent of the issue and displays how far away we are from closing the ‘digital divide.’
This hence leads us to the question: Why is it so hard to close the gap? Let’s flip the question, could you live without technology? Because for many Indigenous Australians their answer is yes. For someone to transition from a world where technology plays a minor role to one where it is the primary source of interaction and function, is a radical lifestyle change (Rennie et al. 2016 pp. 22).
And the stark reality is, that while you’re scrolling through your newsfeed, a group of Indigenous Australians are out Echidna hunting (Rennie et al. 2016 pp. 16).
Andreasson, K. 2015, Digital Divides: The New Challenges and Opportunities of e-Inclusion, CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.
Rennie, E., Hogan, E., Gregory, R., Crouch, A., Wright, A. & Thomas, J. 2016, Internet on the outstation: the digital divide and remote Aboriginal communities, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam.
Samaras, K. 2005, ‘Indigenous Australians and the ‘digital divide’’, International Journal of Libraries and Information Studies, vol. 55, pp. 84-95.
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