Keeping up with information and communication technology

Keeping up with information and communication technology

24 March 2015
Keeping up with information and communication technology

Recent AIFS research reveals that a digital divide persists in relation to age and educational attainment.

Despite increasing societal reliance on ICT developments and widespread use of mobile internet and social media networks, a recent Australian Family Trends paper indicated that a digital divide persists in relation to age and educational attainment.

Drawing on the 2012-13 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, AIFS researchers Lixia Qu and Ruth Weston investigated the use of information and communication technology (ICT) by different population groups, and the extent to which they feel they're not keeping up with modern technology or were worried they'll be left behind in the future.

Those most likely to be worried about the future already believed that they had been left behind. This was particularly true for older respondents. However, one in ten Australians under 35 felt that they have been left behind by advances in modern information communication technology and one in five felt that they would be left behind in the future.

Respondents aged 50-64 years were divided regarding whether they were currently keeping up with information and communication technology: 45% believed they were already behind and 41% felt they were managing. However, in terms of feeling worried about being left behind in the future, this age group was far more likely to express concern than younger age groups (48% compared to 34% of respondents aged 35-49 and 20% of respondents aged 35 and under).

Access the full paper.

Older people’s use of new communication technologies

A 2013 policy brief from the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre gives some insight into how older people may benefit from increasing their technology skills. The paper suggested that given the right equipment, support and advice, the use of new technologies enhances social connections, improves perceived health and increases access to information for older people.

The policy brief presented results from a three-year pilot study that showed self-rated health, satisfaction with community, access to information and the ability to stay in touch with family and friends all improved after participants were introduced to and helped to use a new technology.

The following recommendations for services and programs to facilitate older people’s use of new communication technologies were provided:

  • Start with simple, meaningful activities like using email
  • Have regular meetings, especially when first learning
  • Use a self-directed and work-at-your-own-pace approach
  • Keep group size small –around three learners per tutor
  • Group learning provides a range of benefits, such as social interaction and learning from peers
  • Benefits of one-on-one learning at home include learning ‘in situ’ where the device will most often be used

Download the policy brief (PDF).

Further reading and resources

Feature image: Grandma by fotologic, CC BY 2.0.

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