The South Australian Council of Social Service has today released its latest Cost of Living Update which shows that South Australians spend more on telecommunications than on electricity - and that like electricity costs, the cost of telecommunications hit those on the lowest incomes hardest.
The SACOSS report, which is based on the official ABS Household Expenditure Survey data, shows that while telecommunications prices have been decreasing (unlike electricity!), telecommunications expenditure has increased with higher demand as government, businesses and culture all increasingly move online.
The SACOSS report found that:
- South Australian households spend on average $48.21 per week on telecommunications
- Average expenditure on telecommunications was greater than on electricity, gas or water
- As a proportion of income, telecommunications expenditure has nearly 3 times the impact on the household budget of low income households than it does on those in the highest income bracket
- While telecommunication prices have decreased by 13.5% in Adelaide over the last 14 years, average household expenditure on telecommunications has increased by 6% in real terms
SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley said,
“The ABS data on which we based this report showed clearly that telecommunications costs have a major impact on household budgets, and this is particularly the case for low income households
“It was surprising to find that average South Australian households spend more on telecommunications than on electricity, but this highlights the need to take telecommunications affordability as seriously as we take energy costs. Both are essential services in a digital economy and society.”
“What the report also shows is that regional South Australians are not getting the full benefits of the digital revolution. Telecommunications expenditure in regional areas is less than in capital cities, yet regional consumers are getting around 30% less value for money
“Telecommunications affordability is a major component of digital inclusion – that is, the goal of seeing everyone able to engage online and get the benefits of digital technologies. But particularly for those on low incomes, affordability remains a major challenge”.
Telecommunications affordability is one of three key components of digital inclusion (alongside access and competency in using digital technologies).
In the 2018 State Election, SACOSS is calling on all parties to commit to policies on telecommunications affordability and digital inclusion, including:
- Commitment to a statewide digital inclusion plan or at least as suite of policies to address digital inclusion
- Provision of free wifi for digitally disadvantaged areas so not all the burden of increased data requirements falls on household budgets
- Free (unmetered) access to state government websites so that South Australians are not paying to access basic government information and services.