Embracing the Digital Literacy Foundation

The Digital Literacy Foundation – a new name, a fresh look, a bigger, better mission… and free iPads!

The Digital Literacy Foundation (formerly Leep NGO) has re-energised its mission to achieve universal digital literacy and inclusion.

Executive Chair, Dr Anne Wiggins, describes its work building digital inclusion in disadvantaged communities as being more critical than ever.
“Nearly all of the 3 million Australians who remain digitally unconnected are vulnerable and marginalised. Their lack of digital skills compounds their social exclusion and economic disadvantages.”
“Our new brand identity reflects our expanded mission,” Dr Wiggins says.
“Our new name represents our values and strengths, our new logo embodies the unity and power of connection that digital technology brings, the circle symbolises our advocacy for a digitally inclusive society, and the gradient reflects the transformation that digital connection brings to people’s lives. Even the font is appropriately named Konnect,” she explains.
“As the Digital Literacy Foundation, we will continue to do what we have done for many years now, but expand our reach and impact,” she says. To coincide with the rebrand, the Foundation has launched two new programs, Click & Connect and Making it Click. “These programs enable us to fulfil all three national markers for digital inclusion: accessibility, affordability, and digital ability,” she explains.

“By providing personal digital access and connectivity, and with our Tech Mates working one-on-one to digitally mentor each Learner individually, people are able to safely develop digital confidence and skills.”

“Four words guide our every step: Inclusion, Impact, Advocacy, and Collaboration,” explains Dr Wiggins.

“These signify the difference the Digital Literacy Foundation aims to make. We constantly strive to influence change through our commitment to universal digital literacy and digital inclusion. We impact the communities we serve by training volunteers to digitally mentor as many people as we can through best-practice service delivery. And we partner with other organisations who use their skills, resources and voices alongside ours to work together to make the world a better place,” explained Dr Wiggins.

Digital technology has the potential to reduce social and economic disadvantage in vulnerable cohorts by enabling social connection, and by improving access to services. However, multiple lockdowns during the pandemic highlighted just how stark the digital divide has become in Australia.

“Those who were excluded prior to Covid-19 have become even more excluded, at a time when digital access and inclusion have become more critical, due to the rapid digitisation of essential services – banking, health (telehealth, fulfilment of prescriptions online), government services (vehicle registrations, Medicare, Centrelink) – in many cases with no offline equivalents,” Dr Wiggins says.

“Whilst the rise in digital health provides opportunities for improved access to health care, inequitable digital access can further marginalise vulnerable populations,” she adds.

“Those most likely to be missing out on the benefits of digital health are also those with higher health care needs, such as older Australians.”

Affordable access is the biggest barrier to digital inclusion. Many who need digital skills support do not have access to, or cannot afford, an appropriate internet connected device they can use at home.

Without affordable and reliable internet connection, there is reduced access to information, digital services, and communication channels with community, family, individuals, and government.

The access and affordability scores of Australians aged over 65 years are the lowest demographic in the country, with the level of digital exclusion increasing with age. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that 45% of over 65s don’t use the internet at all, and that 75% of over 65s feel confused and intimidated about using technology.

By providing personal digital access and connectivity to older Australians whilst building their digital confidence and skills, the Digital Literacy Foundation’s Click & Connect and Making it Click programs increase social connectedness and economic inclusion, which in turn improves mental and physical health, and ties with community, friends and family, which builds happiness, security, and a sense of purpose – all of which are protective factors against anxiety and depression, and improved mortality rates.

The Click & Connect program in the Penrith LGA

The Click & Connect program, delivered in partnership with Penrith City Council, provides residents in the Penrith LGA aged 65+ (or 50+ for First Nations people) with free iPads pre-loaded with accessibility features, an initial 12 months free Internet access, an easy grip protective case, digital mentoring by the Digital Literacy Foundation’s trained volunteer Tech Mates, and ongoing iPad maintenance and support.

Working with the Council, the Digital Literacy Foundation brings iPads and Tech Mates to Village Café sessions, which take place three times a month: in Kingswood, North St Marys, and Llandilo on the second, third, and fourth Thursday of each month, respectively.

Attendees can receive devices and digital mentoring, and free coffee in an inclusive atmosphere. The program also provides a gateway to access a wider range of community services.

The Making it Click program in Western Sydney and Western NSW

The Making it Click program, funded by the Okta for Good Fund and the Tides Foundation, serves seniors in Western Sydney (in Blacktown, Kingswood, Cranebrook, Emu Plains, and St Marys) and Western NSW (in Bathurst, Lithgow, Mudgee, and Orange) who are 65+ (or 50+ for First Nations people), providing free iPads pre-loaded with accessibility features, an initial 12 months free Internet access, an easy grip protective case, digital mentoring by the Digital Literacy Foundation’s trained volunteer Tech Mates, and ongoing iPad maintenance and support.

There are no hidden costs with either program. However, all recipients are required to show photo ID and undergo a police check. Enquire about the programs online at digitalliteracy.org.au or call the Digital Literacy Foundation on 1300 163 106.

Call for Volunteers

The Digital Literacy Foundation calls for volunteers old and young to assist in rolling out these new iPad programs in Western Sydney and throughout Western NSW (particularly in the Orange, Canowindra, Mudgee, and Bathurst areas).

Volunteers only need to be over 18 years old, have basic tech skills, and a desire to help in their community. Free training and ongoing mentoring are provided. Proof of Covid-19 vaccination, and a police check are required. To get started as a volunteer Tech Mate, apply online at digitalliteracy.org.au or call the Digital Literacy Foundation on 1300 163 106.

Article Ref:  ‘Embracing the Digital Literacy Foundation + free iPads!’, Australian Seniors News, September 27, 2022. Link