What we have heard about digital inclusion in SA?

Digital inclusion is important.

When people are not digitally included, it can make their lives harder, and they may miss out on opportunities that improve their life.

If you are ‘digitally included’, it means that you are able to use the internet in a way that meets your needs, and that gives you equal access to online services, information and opportunities.

In our conversations with governments, community organisations, business and researchers, and by looking at the research of others, we heard that people rely on the internet more than ever. When people are not able to use the internet, they miss out on being able to (for example):

  • use government services and read government information in a way that is quick and convenient
  • stay connected to friends, family and social networks
  • see or communicate with their doctor and other medical or counseling services
  • meet educational needs – whether you are in school, higher education in a profession or looking to change careers
  • meet economic needs, like looking for a job, banking, operating a small business or buying things online

… and many more activities which form part of our daily life or which we need to do because of something happening in our lives.

There are many reasons why someone may not be digitally included.

Everyone’s situation is unique, but there are also common themes about why someone may find it hard to access the internet.

Some of the reasons we have heard related to access or affordability, for example:

  • there is no internet connection where you live, or it is slow and patchy – especially in rural/remote areas
  • your main form of access is at a public wifi point – like a library and shopping centre, so you have to go out to use the internet
  • you have limited access to internet-capable devices – you may only have a mobile phone, or there may be one device shared by many people in your home
  • you can’t afford internet or as much as you need (e.g. data allowance is too small).

Some of the reasons related to digital ability, for example:

  • you, or someone you care for, doesn’t have the skills to use the internet – or maybe only have very basic skills, like sending email
  • you, or someone you care for, don’t have the confidence to use the internet – maybe because of worries about how hard it is, or if you will be able to stay safe online
  • you, or someone you care for, doesn’t know what’s available online and so isn’t motivated to learn.

We heard that sometimes digital inclusion is a matter of trust – for example, concerns over privacy, how your data might be used, or whether an online service will respect your dignity and treat you fairly and without bias.

We heard reasons about accessibility, for example:

  • you live with a physical disability (e.g. you can’t see well, use a mouse, or need special tools). Because of this, some websites don’t allow you to use them easily or at all
  • information online is too hard or complicated to understand, or isn’t easily available in the language you know best
  • services online are less useful or more limited than the version you get on the phone or face to face.

We also heard that your background, location, situation, age, gender, health and living arrangements can add other challenges to being digitally included, some of which can be difficult to overcome.

Some of the challenges we’ve talked about ‘add up’ – so a single person may have two or more reasons why they can’t use the internet or have their digital needs met. When this happens, it is much harder to overcome.

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Consultation has concluded. Below is a record of the engagement.

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