Digital divide problem growing: Sensis Report

The digital home is a concept out of reach for many people, who live on the other side of a "digital divide", Sensis has found.

Launching the Sensis e-business report to a room full of government representatives in Canberra this week, Sensis General Manager of corporate affairs, Felicity Hand, said the digital divide was a problem that policy-makers needed to keep in mind.

The report found the digital divide existed over a range of demographics, including income, age, and gender.

Only half the population with an income of up to $35,000 were connected to the Internet. This compared with 86 per cent of people with an income of over $85,000 having Internet connectivity.

While 99 per cent of people under 19 years of age had used the Internet in the last 12 months, only 42 per cent of those over 65 had done likewise.

Males were 4 per cent more likely to use the Internet than females, and full- time employees 24 per cent more likely than unemployed people.

Hand said it was significant that only 69 per cent of those without work accessed the Internet in the last year, as the Internet was an increasingly important tool in job seeking.

"In five years time, you won't even be able to get a job without the Internet," she said.

Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde agrees that the digital divide is an issue in our society.

"People are increasingly sent to Web sites for more (government or business) information, to register for courses, carry out banking transactions, or make bookings," he said.

"If you don't have these skills (or access), certain services are simply no longer available -- such as booking cheap airline tickets, for example."

Budde said that while industry certainly had a role to play, fixing the gap needed to be a combined effort with government, user groups, community groups, and elderly groups.

"One of the key reasons why there is a divide is the complexity of using IT. The PC must still be one of the most user unfriendly devices one can think of, and it alienates 20 per cent of the population," he said.

"It is essential that the IT industry conforms to 'Keeping It Simple' principles."

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