The digital divide extends to younger Australians

The digital divide extends to younger Australians

Media release — 17 March 2015

One in ten young Australians under 35 feel that they have been left behind by advances in modern information communication technology and one in five say they’ll be left behind in the future, according to an Australian Family Trends paper released today by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

AIFS’ Assistant Director (Research) Ruth Weston said a significant minority of the under 35s felt they had been left behind by information and communication technology (ICT) and even more had concerns about their ability to keep up in future.

The study canvassed the views of nearly 1,600 adults of all ages who were randomly selected from the Australian Electoral Roll, as part of the ANU’s Australian Survey of Social Attitudes.

“Australians have been quick to embrace advances in ICT which have impacted enormously on the way we stay in touch, share information, work and maintain relationships,” Ms Weston said.

“The volume of information has increased almost beyond comprehension and if even these comparatively young Australians feel left behind, that makes the future seem daunting.”

Ms Weston said concerns about ICT were even higher among older age groups, peaking among the aged 65 and over where just under two-thirds of respondents felt they had been left behind by the rapid changes.

Middle-aged Australians were also worried, with around one-third of those aged 35-49 indicating that they were concerned about being left behind in future.

Co-author of the paper, AIFS Senior Research Fellow, Dr Lixia Qu said Australians’ concerns about keeping up also varied depending on their level of education.

“Generally, the higher people’s education the less concerned they were about their current and future ability to keep up with ICT. However, people aged 55 years and older with the same level of education as younger people were considerably more likely to have concerns,” Dr Qu said.

“For example over one-third of older degree holders indicated that they felt left behind by modern technology, compared with just under one-fifth of younger degree holders.

“Older Australians with no post-school qualifications were unsurprisingly the most concerned, with two-thirds saying they had been left behind and a similar proportion expressing worries about the future.

“Australia’s increasing reliance on ICT developments to deliver services could make it harder for people of all ages, particularly if it signals the end or near-end of face-to-face services.

“The needs of a considerable number of young adults and those with no post-school qualifications may not be met by services that rely wholly or even partly on the use of modern ICT developments. And the situation would be even worse for older people.”

Read Australian Family Trends No. 7 Keeping up with information and communication technology.

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