Digital skills program creates major value for community and connects more older Australians

The eSafety Commissioner (eSafety) and Good Things Foundation Australia welcome a recent social impact report by Swinburne University of Technology, which finds the Australian Government’s Be Connected initiative to help older Australians connect safely online has created significant value for people in that age group.

The program has reached more than double the expected number of older Australians and has also had benefits for the wider community.

The evaluation found that the Be Connected program, funded by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and delivered by eSafety and Good Things Foundation, created a social return on investment of $4.01 for every $1 invested.

This includes enabling digital mentors in 3,500 community partners to deliver digital skills support, increasing the online confidence and skills of people aged over 50, helping seniors avoid scams, engaging volunteers and increasing the overall health and wellbeing of older Australians.

While it was originally envisaged to reach 300,000 older Australians, over 580,000 people have been reached through the initiative between 2016 and February 2020. Since then, the total number of people engaged has risen to over 880,000.

“These findings are clear evidence that older Australians are looking for resources to help them do more confidently and safely online – and are using these resources in significant numbers,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

National Network and Grants Manager for the Be Connected program, Good Things Foundation, has recruited and supported 3,500 diverse community organisations through the Be Connected Network. Originally planned to consist of 2,000 organisations, this network provides support to older Australians who want to improve their digital skills in every state and territory.

“The evaluation clearly shows the vital role of digital mentors in community organisations. By providing on-the-ground support, they have helped thousands of older Australians to improve their digital skills and confidence,” Good Things Foundation Australia National Director Jess Wilson said.

Learners reported improvements in their confidence and digital skills including using smartphones and tablets, knowing how to stay safe online, making video calls, banking online and other activities. This resulted in learners using the internet more often at home, on their mobile devices outside of the home and at community Network venues.

For each module learners completed, the likelihood of using the internet independently on their own increased by 10 percent.

The evaluation also showed that Be Connected program participants increased social connectedness and experienced a significant reduction in loneliness.

Funding for Be Connected has been extended for an additional three years. In November 2020, eSafety and DSS won the Excellence in Multi-Agency Partnership Award at the 2020 Digital Summit Awards.

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