02:27am Monday 21 October 2019

Older Australians and the internet

Dr Sandra Haukka, a Senior Research Fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) based at QUT, said despite the nation’s broadband investment and $15 million Broadband for Seniors initiative, many older Australians who wanted to use the internet couldn’t.

The CCI The Internet in Australia report released in May 2010 found while 98 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 used the internet, only 40 per cent of people aged 64 and over did too.

Dr Haukka’s new Older Australians and the Internet study, undertaken for CCI and supported by the auDA Foundation and National Seniors Australia, surveyed older Australians to find out why they weren’t using the internet.

“Over 50 per cent of older Australians who participated in the survey were interested in using the internet, but faced a range of barriers preventing them from doing so,” she said.

“Barriers include lack of skills and knowledge about what computer to buy, concerns about security and viruses, lack of support, high costs, not wanting to burden their friends or family by asking for help and fear of ‘breaking the computer’ .

“This is surprising given that many participants are high achievers in other aspects of their lives, have the transferable skills needed to use the internet, and are living independently.”

Dr Haukka also found that, despite the Government’s efforts to address these issues, many older Australians were unaware of the available support and services provided to help them get online.

“The $15 million Broadband for Seniors project is setting up 2,000 free internet kiosks in community centres, retirement villages and clubs for seniors across Australia,” says Dr Haukka.

“However, our study found 70 per cent of survey participants have not heard of the kiosks and 64 per cent have not heard of computer clubs for seniors.

“Many of those survey participants who had undertaken internet training claimed that these classes were not effective. They said the pace was too fast, courses were too advanced and differences in computer knowledge among classmates made it impossible to have effective group instruction.”

Dr Haukka said older Australians were interested in using the internet for a range of reasons, which differed greatly from person to person. These reasons included communicating with friends and family, making bookings, looking up timetables, making cheap phone calls, researching health topics and general searching.

She said they were less interested in using the internet to access their records, such as medical and Centrelink records, use social networking sites and manage their finances.

“We should focus on promoting services better with a different approach,” Dr Haukka said.

“My initial recommendations include expanding the availability of one-on-one training, focusing on the needs of individual users, addressing the barriers and supporting older Australians to buy, install and maintain the technology that best suits their needs and select the right internet plan.”

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) is helping to build a creative Australia through cutting edge research spanning the creative industries, media and communications, arts, cultural studies, law, information technology, education and business. It is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Media contact: Rachael Wilson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1150 or rachael.wilson@qut.edu.au.

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