Indigenous Australians continue to face extreme levels of disadvantage in living standards, life expectancy, education, literacy, health and employment. The Dot Com Mob believes that a lot of this disadvantage is caused by a widening gap in the literacy levels between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people that is perpetuated by the 'digital divide' in Australia.
The majority of Indigenous students in remote Australia do not meet the national minimum standards for reading, writing and numeracy. By the age of 15years, only 29% of Indigenous students living in remote areas are reaching the national minimum reading standard. This is compared with the national figure of 92.1% of students reaching the minimum standard (NAPLAN 2008).
Indigenous students also are half as likely as non-Indigenous students to complete Year 12. In 2006, 22 per cent of Indigenous 19 year olds in remote areas had completed year 12 compared to 57 per cent of non-indigenous 19 year olds. Only 11 per cent of Indigenous people aged 20-64 years in remote areas has a qualification of certificate III or higher, compared to 41 per cent of non-Indigenous people.
Communities in remote areas are less likely to have schools and health services and most importantly access to the internet. Only 20% of Indigenous people in remote areas have reported using the internet in the last year, whilst 67% of non-Indigenous people in remote areas reported using the Internet.
In 2006, 93 000 people lived in 1,187 discrete Indigenous communities: - 94 per cent of these communities were in remote and very remote areas. - 245 communities (21 per cent) had a primary school, and 40 (only 3 per cent) had a secondary school that provided year 12.
Access to the Internet can overcome a lot of these disadvantages associated with geographical isolation and the Dot Com Mob is supporting initiatives that provide free public access to computers and the Internet in remote communities.
We believe that connected communities are smarter communities and we have the following priorities in all our projects:
Breaking the Poverty Cycle: It has long been recognised that access to technology is an important component of addressing Indigenous inequality due to the importance of technology in accessing economic, social and political opportunity.
Switching Kids On: Creating an environment that makes learning fun and accessible can result in unforseen and immeasurable benefits that change lives. We have found in our activities that young children are improving their literacy level through interaction with IT which not only encourages them to continue their education but also leads to increased employment opportunities later in life.
Community Centric: Indigenous community members are at the centre of all that we do – as partners in the development and delivery of our initiatives, we want to create an environment that Indigenous people, of all ages, find attractive, accessible and fun. Our experience shows that communities are in the best position to understand their own needs and that true collaboration is fundamental to the sustainability of any project. Every new initiative is based on a thorough and consultative community needs assessment. Our approach fosters individual and community empowerment for sustainable, positive social change.
Connecting the Dots: One of Dot Com Mob’s unique contributions is the project management of private and public partnerships for the benefit of Indigenous communities. This involves harnessing a complex mix of government and corporate resources whilst ensuring Indigenous interests are always the number one priority. Development projects cannot operate in isolation, they must be linked to local authorities and other organisations working in relevant areas.
Leveraging the power of technology to alleviate poverty
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Technology and poverty alleviation are intrinsically linked. Technology has the key to provide people with access to the knowledge and resources to address their basic human needs and develop the building blocks for a stable and fulfilling life.
Dot Com Mob provides indigenous Australians with access to skills and knowledge that will equip them to improve their living conditions, education and health – all of which are interlinked and dependant on each other. For example, in our projects young children are improving their literacy level through interaction with information technology, which not only encourages them to continue their education but also leads to increased employment opportunities later in life
By inspiring kids through their own interests – for example through music or sport - they will naturally begin to improve their level of literacy. If they want to find the latest news on their favourite band or sports star, they need to know how to read, spell and understand information on a basic level. What they don’t understand initially, they will be determined to learn in order to access the information they want.
From this important foundation, a child will gradually increase their level of literacy and have greater access to broader information and skills that can substantially improve the conditions of their life. This may include access to education or training, employment opportunities to generate an income and health information that can have a substantial impact on their physical and mental well-being.
As such, technology should be considered a vital component of any rights-based approach to poverty eradication.