- Last updated:
- 01 May 2020
Bridging the digital divide through access, connectivity and training programs
Intelligent Communities promote inclusion by creating policies and funding programs that provide everyone with access to digital technology and connectivity, offer digital skills training and motivate people to acquire those skills. This fourth post in our Intelligent Community series highlights the many digital skills program available in our region.
The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) 2019 provides a comprehensive picture of Australia’s online participation across three vital dimensions of digital inclusion: Access, affordability and digital ability.
In 2019, the Sunshine Coast’s overall Digital Inclusion Index was 59.5 points, just under the Queensland (60.9) and national (61.9) averages.
The region has made gains since 2014 in the three dimensions of:
- access (up 9.1 points) to 73.2 in 2019 (Queensland state average 75.5, nationally 75.7)
- digital ability (up 9.6 points) to 50.6 in 2019 and higher than the Queensland average of 49.4 (nationally 50.8).
- affordability increasing 0.6 points to 54.8 in 2019, 3.1 points below the Queensland state average of 57.9 (nationally 59.2).
Comparatively, Australia’s overall national score increased from 54.0 to 61.9 (a 7.9 point increase over five years).
Sunshine Coast Libraries
Council developed the Sunshine Coast Libraries Plan 2014-2024 to guide the future form and function of Sunshine Coast Libraries, with an increasing focus on digital media literacy and access to enable the entire community to function in our society.
The Sunshine Coast Library network consists of eight branch libraries and two mobile libraries:
- over 1.4 million visitors in 2018-2019
- hosted over 2,000 programs with over 47,000 attendees in 2018-2019
- 110,465 members
Free WiFi is offered at all branch and mobile libraries, with 66 bookable public computers available (140,000 bookings made in 2018.)
Two mobile library services travel to remote locations around the region so that people living in geographically remote locations can still access the library service. These members also benefit from the eLibrary online services and resources.
Sunshine Coast Libraries have been building their community technology sessions since 2011, now have a team of knowledgeable and confident staff, have built a good solid foundation of resources (including robots, iPads / laptops, online databases and books) and are building programming sessions for all age groups.
Tech help sessions
Skilled volunteers provide one-on-one tech help across eight libraries:
- explain and assist in the implementation of a new program or platform
- develop understanding to better operate your device
- assist with finding hardware or software
- advise how and where to find available resources, such as eBooks, and then assist in their use.
Group sessions are available at all libraries, for beginners and those more advanced, covering Android, eLibrary and eBooks, iPad.
Digital and e-services
The increased uptake of information technology and the rapid emergence of new technologies are changing the way that people access information, interact, learn and have fun. As time and technological developments are proving, the community is increasingly accessing its needs via the internet.
In 2015, a grant from the State Library of Queensland for six Ozobots allowed Sunshine Coast Libraries to begin robotics programming. Numerous holiday sessions have been held, which resulted in the purchase of eight additional Ozobots to double the programs on offer.
In 2016, the Libraries received a coding and robotics grant through State Library of Queensland to purchase a set of Arduinos and laptops to run three adult workshops from November 2016 – May 2017 at three branches.
- Since inception of coding and robotics programming in 2016 Sunshine Coast Libraries have provided 144 programs with 1564 attendees, the majority targeted at youth.
- Libraries conduct regular training sessions for library staff on new hardware. Staff then conduct children’s robotic and coding programs across the service during school holidays.
- In 2019, all ages programming was introduced allowing adults to now have the opportunity to participate in introductory sessions on virtual reality, coding and robotics. To date 27 staff have been trained in 8 different hardware.
Preservation Stations were rolled out across the libraries in 2017-2018 and have proved extremely popular. Staff provide a short training session to allow customers to digitise videos, music and photos. In 2018-2019, 689 sessions were held, with 340 photo preservation participants and 349 music and movie preservation participants.
Seniors Week tech sessions
Sunshine Coast Libraries host specific events for Seniors Week with an emphasis on new technology and hands-on experience, including Instagram for seniors (2016), online shopping for seniors (2017) and streaming for seniors (2018).
A podcast studio will be installed at Kawana library in March 2020 following a $19,000 grant from the State Library Queensland. The studio will be launched to the public in April 2020.
Lead digital mentor
Clare Fry has been appointed council’s Be Connected Lead Digital mentor from 1 July 2019 to end of June 2020 following a $50,000 BeConnected, Good Foundations grant.
Clare will train and upskill 100 people to be digital mentors to the wider community, providing IT basics such as using a mouse, creating an email address and using a keyboard. Ten training sessions have been delivered so far with 45 mentors trained. Four more sessions were planned with a further 22 mentors trained before the end of 2019.
Community training programs
Several national and state programs offer partnership opportunities for local organisations and community groups to provide free or low cost digital skills training.
- Be Connected - an Australian Government initiative aimed at increasing the confidence, skills and online safety of older Australians in using digital technology. There are 51 Be Connected Partners on the Sunshine Coast.
- Go Digi is a four-year digital literacy program with the goal of supporting more than 300,000 Australians to improve their digital skills. There are 2 network partners offering face to face learning on the Sunshine Coast.
- Tech Savvy Seniors helps older people to develop skills and confidence to use technology for socialising, accessing services or conducting personal business. Tech Savvy Seniors Queensland is a partnership between the Queensland State Government and Telstra, delivering free or low cost training through Sunshine Coast Libraries.
- GetOnlineQld program works with local community organisations and groups to provide free, one-on-one help to anyone over the age of 18 years who wants to discover the benefits of being online.
Sunshine Coast Computer Club
The voluntary membership-based organisation has been providing computer and technology support to seniors, beginners and advance users since 1988. The club runs two technology education centres:
- Caloundra Queen Street Community Hall - Saturdays 9am – 12pm
- Goodlife Community Centre, Buderim - Thursdays 1pm – 4pm.
University of the Third Age (U3A)
U3A Sunshine Coast offers academic and skills subjects, arts and crafts, exercise and social activities, including computer related courses such as: Photography introduction to Faststone, Word processing, coding, tablets and smart phones. These courses have been run 2-4 times per year for the past 8-10 years.
Nambour Community Centre
- Internet Savvy Seniors: Learn how to do internet banking, create documents and keep in touch with family and friends. Every Wednesday from 9.30am to 11.30am. Running since July 2018.
- Computer assistance: Learn how to use Google, email and other basic computer applications. Every Thursday by appointment from 9.30am to 2.30pm. This program started in 2017 with 4-5 people assisted weekly.
Digital skilling programs for businesses
There is a critical need for Sunshine Coast businesses to improve their digital capabilities to meet the expectations of today’s digital-savvy customers, as well as best practice industry standards.
Micro and small-medium size businesses could be more competitive and increase efficiencies and profitability if they are aware of the high-speed broadband connections available to them and understand the wide range of digital tools and innovation for growth practices that they can access.
Visit Sunshine Coast Industry Development Program
As part of its industry development program, Visit Sunshine Coast delivers digital workshops which provide workers with:
- An understanding of how to grow their business by selecting and optimising the best channels that their most profitable customers favour.
- An understanding of how to use different forms of content to tell their story about the unique experiences and excellent service they can offer travellers to the sunshine Coast.
- Marketing practices to keep up with how customers are using technology today.
Additionally, the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, in collaboration with key tourism industry stakeholders (including Visit Sunshine Coast) delivers a Tourism Industry Business Capability Program which aims to support tourism operators across the state by building digital capability and empowering them to deliver a consistently high standard of visitor experience. It’s programs include:
- Digital Ready - aims to develop understanding and skills in digital marketing, media and digital channels.
- Trade Ready – assists businesses in understanding key principles of tourism marketing and distribution.
Get up to speed program (2012-2015)
The 12-week online digital marketing program was funded by Skills Queensland in a collaboration with Broadband Today (now Australian Smart Communities Association).
Level Up Program
A council funded program (launched in 2017) aimed at helping local micro, small and medium businesses connect to high-speed broadband where available, and fully utilise digital tools, innovation principles and business solutions to enable them to improve their productivity, profitability and ability to compete locally, nationally and internationally, where desired. This program built on the highly successful Get up to Speed program.
The Queensland Government’s Digital Scorecard helps businesses identify ways to improve their digital capability and be more competitive in a global digital economy.
Read more about the region-wide programs and initiatives across the awards' Intelligent Community indicators:
- Broadband: encouraging deployment and adoption, and deploying our own networks where necessary
- Knowledge workforce: creating economic value through knowledge, skills and ability to use information effectively
- Innovation: creating a culture that engages the entire community in positive change
- Engagement: building a common understanding of the challenges facing the community and a shared vision for overcoming them
- Sustainability: improving the quality of life for our community.
The Sunshine Coast was named a global Top7 Intelligent Community for the second successive year. The annual awards program recognises the accomplishments of communities in developing inclusive prosperity on a foundation of information and communications technology, based on six key indicators: Broadband, knowledge workforce, innovation, digital inclusion, engagement and sustainability. The 2020 Top7 Intelligent Communities are now in the running for the prestigious Intelligent Community of the Year, to be announced in October.