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Public Sector

Bridging the Digital Divide: The Key to Social Inclusion

Australia is witnessing an uptake in digital government services. A vast majority (94 percent) of Australians polled in the Publicis Sapient Digital Citizen Survey—one of the largest surveys on digital government—expressed that they used digital government services at least once in the past year. The proportion of Australians using digital government services also increased across all age groups. While this growth is commendable, research has also shown that disadvantaged demographic groups in Australia still struggle with limited access to technology infrastructure, leading to social isolation.

Addressing the needs of all

According to our research, the builder generation (ages 80+) in Australia was five times more likely to rate digital services as ‘very poor.’ The proportion of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Indigenous respondents who use digital government services increased for each service category by an average of 4 percent. However, they were still less likely than other respondents to utilize the two most used digital services in Australia—healthcare (-13 percent) and financial services/taxes (-12 percent).

A key area of opportunity for governments is to expand digital government services to include these disadvantaged groups. Equally, the needs of vulnerable populations must be taken into consideration, including those with mental health issues.

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On a positive note, most Australians (75 percent) who experienced mental health issues sought professional support services on at least one occasion in the past 12 months. Younger Australians, including Gen Z and millennials, were significantly more likely to experience mental health issues compared to older Australians. However, of those who sought support, 30 percent did so once, 31 percent did so two to five times and only 13 percent sought support six times or more, suggesting that online services need improvements to support those Australians experiencing longer-term mental health issues.


Democratising digitalisation

It is also essential for digital government to be mindful of the needs of all strata of society. For instance, Publicis Sapient research showed that households with incomes below $100,000, individuals without university-level education and above and women who identified as a minority group* were more likely to rate government healthcare services as poor.

Rural Australians also expressed a reluctance to use digital services. They were almost two times more likely to never access digital government services and were more likely than other respondents to disagree that using online government services was easier. They also expressed that they did not think of using an online government service when they experienced a life event (27 percent).

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Many Australians still feel excluded from digitalisation efforts largely because of poor digital infrastructure, high cost, absence of technical skills or unreliable network or mobile coverage in certain geographic areas. Amplifying government efforts to close these gaps and include disadvantaged and minority groups in the decision-making process will accelerate the adoption of digital government services across states and territories.

*Minority classification in respondent demographics is a combination of groups that identify either as a minority ethnicity/race, having a minority cultural background or belonging to a minority religion.

Sanja Galic
Sanja Galic
State Government Lead
Publicis Sapient