Addressing the divide

Finding solutions to the impacts of digital poverty is critical to ensure all students can access and complete their education.

“Digital poverty” is the inability to fully interact with the online world due to lack of access to technology and internet connectivity. This leads to an uneven distribution of digital skills and knowledge.

One in four Australians are digitally excluded. This kind of scarcity may arise where a person is unable to use the internet or where opportunities to use the internet are severely limited by inadequate access to data or a suitable device. The inability to afford or access online connection and digital devices presents major barriers to education, work, and vital services. The lack of access can also compound existing inequalities and lead to what some researchers have called an ‘inequality loop’, resulting in digital exclusion.

Why we need to address it

Digital access is often determined by socioeconomic factors such as income, education and geography. The shift to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide and highlighted the impact of digital poverty among Macquarie University students. Some students who are more vulnerable to digital poverty include those:

  • from a low socio-economic status background
  • living with a disability
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • rural and remote students
  • refugee and migrant students
  • students studying while incarcerated

Without internet access or a suitable device, you may risk missing the benefits of online resources in essential areas such as health services, employment opportunities, and education. Research has also shown those experiencing digital poverty will sacrifice other essential living expenses to be able to afford a device, also perpetuating the ‘inequality loop’.

Your ability to get online means you can:

  • participate more fully in your education and keep up with your peers
  • find employment opportunities
  • access information for your health and wellbeing
  • engage with friends and family via social platforms
  • relax by listening to music, or watching your favourite online content

Addressing and disrupting the negative impacts of digital poverty is critical to ensure that all students can access and complete their education. Disrupting digital poverty is also critical to the University’s endeavor to foster equity and inclusion to create an environment where all students can thrive.

Where to get support