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State Government's digital skills announcement a welcome step - but more to do

MEDIA RELEASE: South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) welcomes the state government’s announcement today of funding to provide support and equipment for students to develop their digital skills. In particular, we congratulate the government on committing $23 million to providing internet connectivity and devices to low-income families who might otherwise be locked out of access to digital technology. 

“We know that digital technology is now essential for participation in an increasing range of aspects of life. Students need access to the technology and connectivity available to their peers if they are to participate in our increasingly digitised world,” said SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley.

“Digital inclusion has long been a key area of SACOSS advocacy, so it is really encouraging to see action in this space.

“SACOSS has repeatedly heard from education stakeholders who were concerned that some schools were not able to invest necessary resources to ensure students could develop their digital skills, potentially creating chasms in future outcomes for those students who attended schools with less resources. The announcement of IT and digital curriculum support, as well as IT support for teachers, is welcome in this context.

“SACOSS has long been concerned about the deepening digital divide as a new frontier of inequality and poverty and has been calling on the Government and Opposition to commit to providing all students with the devices and data that they need to build their digital skills and participate in their education. We welcome the funding commitment to provide low-income families with support, and await more detail to see how families will become eligible and what supports they will receive.

“Digital exclusion is driven by, and widens, inequality. We can and must ensure that no one is left behind in the digital transition, and use digital inclusion efforts to amplify social inclusion.

"Ultimately, appropriate data and devices will need to be made available to all students if we are to achieve digital inclusion for all South Australian children. There is a risk that digital exclusion will exacerbate social stratification and that this will play out in classrooms, creating a divide between those with and without technology access. SACOSS calls on Labor to match the government’s commitment to fund devices and connectivity for students and to extend this commitment to all secondary students.

"The announcement of digital inclusion education support for low-income families is an important step towards digital inclusion for all South Australians, but schools and children are only one part of this broader picture. To ensure that all South Australians can access and use the digital technology they need to participate and flourish will require significant government investment across the community. SACOSS will be looking for all parties in the coming election to commit to such investment."

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