Internet connectivity among people experiencing poverty and deprivation
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Internet connectivity among people experiencing poverty and deprivation. Dr Sarah Wise University of Melbourne and Berry Street Victoria. Presentation aim. 7 points about deprivation of telecommunications among people experiencing poverty

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Internet connectivity among people experiencing poverty and deprivation

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Internet connectivity among people experiencing poverty and deprivation

Dr Sarah Wise

University of Melbourne and Berry Street Victoria


Presentation aim

  • 7 points about deprivation of telecommunications among people experiencing poverty

  • 1 strategy to build a more digitally inclusive society


280 emergency relief and 45 financial counselling clients (N = 325)

24 Victorian service locations (14 metro, 10 non-metro)

Deprivation index

Items on telecommunications access and affordability

62.8% disability

7.7% homelessness

41.8% long-term (10+ years) unemployed

51.0% less than Year 12 education

55.0% living with dependent children under the age of 18

26.3% born in a non-English speaking country.

46.6% male

10.8% above the working age (65 years or more)

Anglicare Victoria’s 2013 Hardship Survey


Internet connectivity has positive benefits

  • Information and knowledge

  • Skills building (e-learning)

  • Services

  • Social and political participation

  • Employment

  • Creative expression


Digital exclusion can reinforce and deepen existing social inequalities

  • 83.0 per cent of Australian households have access to the Internet (ABS 2014)

  • 93.0 per cent of Australians with home Internet have broadband access (ABS 2014)

  • 64.0 per cent of adults over the age of 18 (11.19 million people) use a smartphone (ACMA 2014)


Understanding who is excluded and why is critical to bridging the digital divide

  • Skills and confidence in using the Internet

  • Perceived benefits and interest/motivation

  • Age

  • Geographic location

  • Affordability


majority of welfare service clients missed out on home Internet and smart phone, but not mobile phone


Age and presence of dependent children differentiated users and non-users of home Internet and smartphone

  • Smartphone users significantly younger

  • Home Internet users (almost) significantly older

  • Home Internet users significantly more likely to have dependent children (<18 years) living in the home


≤$50 monthly expenditure on home Internet and mobile phone affordable for those who had it

Home Internet

  • 49.2% didn’t have it because they couldn’t afford it

  • 68.0% (who didn’t bundle) spent $50 or less per month

  • 63.4% (who didn’t bundle) felt the cost was ‘very’ or ‘moderately’ affordable

    Mobile phone

  • 11.1% didn’t have it because they couldn’t afford it

  • 82.3% spent $50 or less per month

  • 61.7% felt the cost was ‘very’ or ‘moderately’ affordable


Home Internet greatly improved (or would improve) standard of living


Schemes for affordable smartphones could increase Internet access for people living in poverty

  • Welfare service clients see the benefits of Internet access, but many can’t afford it

  • Mobile phone is the dominant form of telecommunication

  • Mobile networks, such as 4G, and Wi-Fi hotspots making mobile Internet more accessible

  • Cost effective programs and special schemes for smartphone usage could be an effective strategy to increase Internet access for people living in poverty

  • Up to $50 per month affordable for most


Further information

  • Australian Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy 2(4), December 2014.

  • [email protected]


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