The ‘vital’ initiative narrowing the digital divide for older Australians

Oct 25, 2023
Offering free digital literacy training and essential tools, the program empowers older adults to safely and effectively navigate the digital world. Source: Getty Images.

In a major commitment to bridging the digital generation gap, the Federal Government is injecting a significant $42 million to extend the highly successful Be Connected program, ensuring older Australians stay securely connected in our ever-evolving digital world.

The Be Connected program lends a helping hand to those aged 50 and above, empowering them to enhance their digital proficiency. With complimentary access to comprehensive digital literacy training and essential devices, the program equips older adults with the skills and knowledge required to navigate the digital realm safely and efficiently.

The program was due to end in July 2024 but the Government’s investment will see it extended through to 2028.

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth underscored the vital role of tailored digital literacy initiatives in supporting older Australians who may require assistance, particularly in an era where Australia’s reliance on technology continues to grow.

“Many aspects of daily life have shifted to the digital world; banking, bill paying, telehealth appointments, job hunting and accessing government services for example. Technology changes so rapidly, it is vital that no-one is excluded,” Rishworth said.

“Increasing digital literacy can also help people feel more connected. Social media can help Australians to stay in touch with friends and loved ones who may live far away, reducing loneliness and isolation.”

Assistance will be extended nationwide as the Government collaborates with local libraries, community organisations, retirement villages, and aged care facilities through dedicated Network Partners.

“Lack of access to training has been a barrier to many older Australians becoming digitally literate. They also suffer the biggest financial losses due to scams. This expansion of support will help get more people online, be safe online and help bridge the digital divide,” Rishworth said.

Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland stressed the vital importance of extending the BeConnected program as a means to bridge the digital divide.

“Improving digital literacy for all Australians is key to making online spaces safer,” Rowland said.

“That’s why the Albanese Government is providing ongoing funding to this important initiative, including to eSafety as a major delivery partner for the BeConnected Program.

“The Young Mentors, in particular, is helping connect Australians of different ages to build their digital skills and confidence, and encourage genuine connections across generations”.

While Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones underscored the significance of initiatives like BeConnected in equipping Australians with the tools to safeguard themselves against scams.

“In 2022 the ACCC reported Australians aged over 45 lost more than $300 million to scammers. These figures are staggering,” Jones said.

“Australians who are digitally literate, alert, and educated to the risk of scams will make them less attractive targets to scammers.

“Through important initiatives like BeConnected and the National Anti-Scams Centre, our Government is helping Australians stay safe online.”

With previous reports from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) indicating that people aged 65 and over have often reported the highest losses to scams, with losses increasing with age, this new funding initiative is poised to provide a significant boost in mitigating these detrimental effects.

When it comes to avoiding falling victim to scam activity, the ACCC suggests the following:

  • Always make sure you know who you are dealing with or talking to. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you are not sure that an offer is genuine, do not go through with the purchase or share personal details.
  • Check if the company is registered through the ABN lookup website.
  • Read reviews of the business and check for signs that it could be a scam.
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card or bank transfer so that you can ask your bank for a chargeback.
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