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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1363 ..

Information technology and communications

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mrs Burke proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:

The necessity of everyone in our community having access to high-quality information technology and telecommunications and knowing how to use these services.

MRS BURKE (3.29): My Assembly colleagues, everyone who wants access to, and education and training in, information technology and telecommunications deserves the right to be able to do so. As many of you would know, the ACT has the highest rate of home computer usage and Internet access in Australia. Some 68 per cent of ACT households have a home computer and 35 per cent of ACT households have some Internet access.

The ACT government has strongly promoted the ACT as the leader in information technology for both the public and the private sectors. This includes appropriate ACT government services being delivered on line by the end of 2001.

Mr Speaker, it is my belief that governments have a social responsibility to ensure that the community at large has the necessary skills and abilities to physically access the ever-increasing information economy. To this end, this government has met its social responsibility and initiated the establishment of a digital divide task force which I chaired.

What is the digital divide? Many in our community would ask this. The concept of a digital divide is commonly being used to describe disparities in awareness of, access to, use of and required training in the Internet and new telecommunications services across different social groups. There currently exists an inequality of distribution in IT knowledge, skills and resources necessary to access online services and information among the different groups in our modern society.

The other task force members were Daniel Stubbs, chair of ACTCOSS, and Professor Michael Wagner, head of the School of Computing at the University of Canberra. My task force colleagues and I wanted to ensure that in the time available we consulted with a broad as possible cross-section of government, business, education and community sectors in developing the framework of the report and its recommendations.

The task force established a support reference group comprising representatives of government, business, education and the community sector to consult with. A very dynamic and successful round table of reference group members was held on 15 March 2001 to identify and prioritise digital divide issues. These are specifically reflected in the task force report.

Access to hardware is one small part of a much bigger picture. People need to be taken through awareness raising, education and training. The task force understands that simply throwing more resources at this problem will not solve it. There is a diverse range of target groups that have been identified through the task force and reference group

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