Home & Office

NBN could increase digital divide

Most people would describe the digital divide as the discrepancy in the availability of new technologies, particularly broadband. On that basis, the roll-out of the NBN (extending broadband to almost every household in Australia) should be good news as it will lessen the divide.
Written by Phil Dobbie, Contributor on

Play audio version

The digital divide is often described as the discrepancy in the availability of new technologies, such as broadband. On that basis, the roll-out of the National Broadband Network, extending broadband to almost every Australian household, should be good news, as it should close that divide.

Well maybe not. In the US, broadband is available to practically every household, yet 80 million adults and 13 million children don't have access at home. They haven't signed up for reasons of price, inclination and lack of digital literacy.

If a third of our population refuses to get online the NBN could actually broaden the divide between the digital haves and have-nots. So is this an issue the government should be tackling. Obviously the computers for school kids initiative is a start, but don't we need a more comprehensive approach?

In the US the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has looked at the issue in depth in its report "Broadband Adoption and Use in America". The FCC presents its National Broadband Plan to the Congress later this month. Meanwhile, we have an infrastructure project, but where's the plan on how we will use it and how we obfuscate any detrimental social consequences?

In this week's program you'll hear from:

  • Nicholas Gruen, economist and former chair of the Government 2.0 Taskforce
  • John Horrigan, consumer researcher director at the Federal Communications Commission
  • Brian Mefford, president of Connected Nation

Do we care about those who choose not to be part of the digital economy? Or could their non-participation have a broader impact that will effect us all?

Listen to the program then tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Editorial standards