Bridging the digital divide

Date: Thursday, 27 July 2023 
Location: Delivered online  

A digital transformation is in full swing. Worldwide, governments and businesses are transitioning services online. This benefits most Australians by increasing productivity and access to services. However, the rapid transition to technology risks entrenching disadvantages in some communities.

In Australia, the number of people who are digitally excluded has been falling over time (ADII, 2021). Despite this, there are parts of our community that are more likely to be digitally excluded: multicultural communities, people with a disability, First Nations’ people, regional and remote communities and people with lower social and economic opportunity. For people in these communities, this impacts educational opportunities, health outcomes and social connectedness. 

As we plan for smart places, we need to address the gap in access, affordability and ability.    

This SmartNSW Masterclass explores: 

  • what factors cause a digital divide
  • the experiences within digitally disadvantaged communities
  • the impacts of digital exclusion on health, education and economic opportunity
  • interventions to bridge the divide. 

Attendees leave with a greater appreciation of the role they play in creating smart places that are inclusive, cohesive and provide opportunities for everyone to participate.


Browse the masterclass agenda, and re-watch the sessions below by clicking on the session heading. Or rewatch the sessions on our YouTube Playlist

9.00am - Welcome and keynote

Rory Brown, Executive Director, Smart Places

Keynote: The Hon Jihad Dib 

Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government

9.15am - Panel discussion: Examining the digital divide

This panel introduces the concept of digital equity and why action is needed to make sure no one is left behind as smart places are developed and services are digitised. 

Facilitator: Emily Rucker 

  • Professor Anthony McCosker, Chief Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision Making + Society Swinburne University of Technology 
  • Joseph La Posta, CEO Multicultural NSW 
  • Andy Johnston, Acting Group Manager, Social Policy Group, National Indigenous Australians Agency

10.20 am - Smart speed session: Responding to digital inequity

Speakers in this session had 5 minutes each to introduce the activity underway to address the digital divide in NSW. Following this, speakers came together for a panel discussion on ways to boost access to affordable connectivity options and build digitally capable communities. 

Facilitator: Sandy Burgoyne 


Masterclass Recap (PDF, 935.32 KB)

Watch: Digital Equity and Inclusion

Read: Smart Places Playbook

Explore more on this topic in the Smart Places Playbook – updated with new content. 

Explore: 2023 Australian Digital Inclusion Index and data  

The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) tracks and reports on digital inclusion in Australia across three dimensions: access, affordability and digital ability. This detailed measure of digital inclusion for Australia allows us to identify the critical barriers to inclusion. Find out more about how these dimensions vary across Local Government Areas, and across different social groups.

Focus: how is government responding to digital inequity?

Western Parkland Digital Equity and Inclusion Program

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted some of the impacts of digital disadvantage and showed why everyone needs to be able to participate in the digital ecosystem. This is particularly important as businesses and Government shift to digital service delivery. 

The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) shows people in the rest of Sydney have better access to affordable internet than the communities in the Western Parkland City and better skills to use it. 

Western Parkland City Digital Equity and Inclusion Insights Program will uncover the key reasons people can’t participate digitally in Western Sydney. Successful delivery of this Program will help the Western Parkland City to be a truly smart city and will create equitable opportunities for all members of the community. 

More information:  

Planning for New Communities (5G Trial)

The Western Sydney 5G Trial is one of four digital commitments in the Western Sydney City Deal. It will find new ways for mobile networks to work with councils and property developers. The project will provide mobile coverage to new areas, while homes are being built. Providing areas with network connections before people move in is cheaper and less disruptive than installing it after.

The trial will focus on growth areas in Western Sydney. It will look at ways mobile networks, developers and councils can work together. 

More information:  

NSW Telco Authority: NSW Connectivity Index

NSW Telco Authority has developed the NSW Connectivity Strategy to align and optimise state-wide programs and opportunities to ensure modern, high speed digital networks are available to all. The strategy is an important step forward to align with world's best practice, accelerate access to digital services, and close the digital divide between metropolitan, rural, and regional areas.

The strategy aims to deliver meaningful, world-class, affordable, and resilient connectivity for citizens, businesses, emergency services and government; one that is coordinated across government agencies and enables full participation in digital services and systems anywhere, anytime.

More information: 

NSW Closing the Gap program

In March 2019, the Australian Government, the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations, state and territory governments, and the Australian Local Government Association signed a formal Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap

The NSW Government is working in partnership with the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations (NSW CAPO) and other partners to achieve better outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is a new way of working for the NSW Government – an opportunity we welcome, to learn from our partners and transform the way we work together. 

More information: