THE DIGITAL DIVIDE ACROSS AUSTRALIA
The digital divide is by no means limited to developing countries as tens of thousands of students across Australia, particularly in rural and remote regions, do not own a personal digital device at home. This is an enormous constraint to students and their schools and it truly came to the fore during the height of the COVID-19 crisis which left thousands of students across Queensland stranded without a digital device as education moved onto online platform.
Since March 2020, our Digital Inclusion Program has improved equity of access to digital technologies across Queensland by providing 850 high school students their own personal device. For our many recipients living in very remote Australia, digital access allows them, their families and their dreams to be better connected to opportunities to fulfil their ambitions.
Our commitment to rural, regional and remote students extends beyond affording them personal digital access to helping them grow into leaders and 'succeeders'. Accessing afterhours study help can be very difficult in remote areas. Through our partnership with Need a Tutor, we provide an opportunity for Indigenous beneficiaries to seek professional tutoring remotely via their device.
Owning a personal digital device allows students to seek and create employment opportunities. Caesar Duncan used his device to complete qualifications and become employed with AFL Townsville and Cricket Australia. Charlotte Phillips started an online cake-baking business. In 2021, some of our corporate partners will provide employability programs.
In September 2020, Founder & CEO, Jack Growden, and Director, Luke Wakeham, travelled to the northernmost tip of Australia to deliver 50 digital devices to the Northern Peninsula Area State College, thanks to the profound support of AECOM. Most students across the 288,804 sq km Cape York region (one of the most isolated in the world) do not own a digital device and therefore, cannot access online tutoring and other services. Equipped with a device, these students can now access professional tutoring support remotely, from their homes, through our partnership with Need a Tutor.
Eighty-five students from Townsville State High School have been recipients of the Digital Inclusion Program. Coming to Australia only recently as refugees or migrants from Democratic Republic of Congo, and other parts of Africa, these students are hungry for education. Their Principal, Rob Slater, explained that the devices had improved their learning outcomes and even assisted students in learning English almost from scratch.
Tens of thousands of Australian students, particularly in rural and remote regions, do not own a personal digital device at home. Caesar Duncan was one of them – an ambitious future leader who dreamt big but needed a digital device to do his talents justice. With the tools to learn and the tools to dream, Caesar has been able to apply for qualifications and jobs and is now employed at both the AFL and Cricket Australia. Caesar is one of 850 high school students across rural, regional and remote Queensland who we have empowered to take ownership over his educational journey.
In 2021, we delivered personal digital devices to fifty students across Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands, thanks to the incredible support of AMP Foundation. Prior to our first delivery to the Ravenshoe State School, less than 2% of their secondary students owned a digital device. We have raised this to 70% within a year thanks to donors such as AMP Foundation. We are hoping to finish the job and bridge the digital divide at the school by the end of the year.
Rob Slater (Principal, Townsville State High School)