auDA’s Digital Lives of Australians 2022 research report demonstrates the importance of the internet to the lives of Australian small businesses and consumers. To celebrate the launch of the report, auDA CEO Rosemary Sinclair AM hosted an online discussion alongside experts from Australia’s digital sector.
- Andrew Williams, CEO of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)
- Christine Christmas, Assistant Director-General of the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)
- Keith Howard, Chief Information Security Officer, Commonwealth Bank
- Rachael McIntyre, Executive General Manager of State Corporate Affairs, NBN Co
- Keith McGowan, Director, SEC Newgate Research.
1. The internet provides value to almost all Australians
Ninety-eight per cent of Australians say the internet adds value to their lives and 61 per cent say they would not be able to do their jobs without the internet. Consumers note they would most miss the ability to connect with others online if they did not have the internet. However, when prompted, they state practical benefits of the internet such as access goods and services, managing personal affairs and learning new things are most widely valued.
“It's very evident that the internet is essential ... more and more services are now being delivered online and really consumers have no choice but to be online to take full advantage of that. Life is really hard if you’re not connected.” Andrew Williams, CEO, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).
2. Effective use of digital technologies provides a competitive advantage to Australian small businesses
The report revealed that 84 per cent of small businesses would struggle to survive without the internet. The top benefits stated by small businesses are customer engagement and the ability to work remotely. The internet also delivers value to small businesses through their ability to promote, monitor and streamline business functions. Less than a quarter of small businesses currently realise these benefits, however, those that do, consider it gives them a competitive advantage.
“There is still more work we need to do with businesses to give them the skills and confidence they need to fully invest in digital technology to drive growth for their own businesses.” Rachael McIntyre, Executive General Manager - State Corporate Affairs, NBN Australia.
3. The internet keeps Australia’s diverse communities connected
Australia’s skilled migrants recognise the value of the internet, which enables them to participate in the workforce and stay connected with loved ones in their homelands. Additionally, when compared to the broader population, consumers from a culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are more likely to have hybrid work arrangements and rely on the internet to do their jobs.
“Relative to their counterparts, culturally and linguistically diverse consumers are far more likely to do a range of things online … overall they are more likely to consider the internet very important in their lives.” Keith McGowan, Director, SEC Newgate Research
4. Cyber security an ever-present concern for Australians
Concerns about cyber security undermine consumer confidence in using the internet. The chief concerns cited by consumers are the security of personal information and having personal data or money stolen by scammers.
“Seventy-four per cent of respondents believe cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated. On the counter side to that, a large number don’t know the basic steps to protect themselves … there are a number of simple steps people and businesses can take and resources to support that.” Keith Howard, Chief Information Security Officer, Commonwealth Bank.
5. Australian businesses are under-investing in cyber security
Australian small businesses also noted significant concern about cyber security. Fear of online scams, security and privacy of business data and the disruption arising from a data breach are among the major concerns many business owners hold. Despite this, fewer than a quarter of small businesses said they have a cyber security policy in place or provide staff with cyber security training.
“Australia is a ripe country for cyber criminals to target. We have high economic activity, we’re quite a wealthy country … it’s really important to follow the essential advice we put on cyber.gov.au.” Christine Christmas, Deputy Director, Australian Cyber Security Centre.
6. Digital upskilling offers an opportunity to close a looming digital skills gap
A shortfall in skilled staff may lead to a digital skills gap that prevents small businesses from fully realising online opportunities. Younger Australians and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds express greatest interest in a developing more advanced digital skills.
“[Upskilling Australians will] require a united front across multiple organisations, government and others to give people the skills and confidence to engage fully in a digital world.” Rachael McIntyre, Executive General Manager - State Corporate Affairs, NBN Australia.
7. Australians are excited about the future of the internet
With almost all Australians engaging online and the majority of small businesses reliant on the internet, it’s perhaps not surprising that Australians have a mostly positive outlook for the future of the internet, albeit with some apprehension. Both consumers and small businesses said they are cautiously optimistic about emerging internet technologies.
“We conducted the research knowing much is happening in the digital world and rapidly … [despite some challenges] there exists an attitude of excitement towards opportunities of bridging skills gaps … and small businesses were also positive about embracing emerging technologies.” Rosemary Sinclair AM, CEO, auDA