The University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA) and Perth-based ICT consultancy Illuminance Solutions have joined forces and launched a joint-initiative designed to increase digital literacy among Indigenous people of all ages in Broome.
The initiative will be rolled out of digital literacy training programmes run by illuminance staff from UNDA’s Broome campus and will be open to all adults in the community, not just students.
Illuminance Chief Executive Nilesh Makwana said the impact digital literacy has on so many areas of life – from using the internet, or being able to use online banking, to receiving quality education, and securing employment – has made digital literacy essential for all Australians.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 Census of Population and Housing, nearly half of Indigenous households in remote Australia have no access to the Internet at home, “resulting in increasingly low digital literacy rates among Aboriginals”.
“Unfortunately, there is a digital divide emerging in Australia, particularly among Aboriginal communities, with the problem compounded by the rapid rate of technological advancements,” Mr Makwana said.
“As Australia becomes increasingly digitised, it’s crucial that our nation’s first people have equal opportunities to participate in education and employment.”
The digital literacy training programmes are focussed on providing a basic understanding of Microsoft Office, teaching participants how to use Team, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint Online, and a range of other Microsoft business programmes, including OneNote.
UNDA Chief Operation Officer Claire Stanford stated that Broome campus has a mission to support reconciliation and “therefore have an important role to play in overcoming the challenges that many Kimberley people have in accessing and using digital technologies.”
“Students in the Kimberley are geographically disadvantaged and digital literacy is a critical component of any effort to bring about educational equity to Aboriginal people in this region,” Ms Stanford said.
The joint initiative is anticipated to run four times in 2020, with training courses running up to two days, starting at a beginner’s level and then advancing to more intermediate concepts.
The first digital literacy-training programme is expected to be held early next year.
“Illuminance recognised a need to implement basic IT training; a lot of services – Medicare, MyHealth, Centrelink, the ATO, even the grants programme for Aboriginal artists – they’re all online,” Mr Makwana added.
“We’re on the verge of putting millions of Australians at a further disadvantage because of a lack of technology knowledge.”
The Honourable Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Australians, will formally launch the joint initiative at the 2019 West Tech Assemblage held in Perth next month.
“I would like to congratulate both illuminance Solutions and the University of Notre Dame for this new initiative. It’s encouraging to see such leadership outside of government that’s looking to lift digital literacy rates among Indigenous Australians,” the Hon Wyatt said.
“This is an important project that will assist Indigenous families with access to education and employment opportunities.”
Now in its fifth year, West Tech Assemblage aims to foster cross-collaboration by bringing together the state’s broad tech community, with this year’s event dedicated to advocating and promoting the inclusion of Indigenous Australians in WA’s technology sector.
The 2019 West Tech Assemblage will be held at the Pan Pacific Hotel on the 18th of November, with support from Reconciliation WA.
Reconciliation WA Chief Executive James Black said that the opportunity is a “wonderful example of practical reconciliation in action”.
“It is a solid demonstration that through respectful relations we can drive equitable outcomes which serve us all, making Western Australia a better place to live” Mr Black affirmed.