The three drivers of online behaviour among Australians

Our digital age offers huge potential for greater social connections, new pathways to education and greater access to employment, health services and of course economic opportunities. But are some groups being left behind in this fourth industrial revolution?

With the government mandated to digitise its services, ensuring equality of access is critical. There is also a strong business case for increasing digital adoption. Deloitte Access Economic calculated an estimated savings of $17.9 billion over 10 years if the government reduced its non-digital channel transactions from 40 per cent to 20 per cent.

But while much research has been done into the capabilities of business and government to realise their digital potential, we also need to understand the capabilities and appetite among the users of those products, platforms and services.

According to a research study conducted by BehaviourWorks Australia at Monash University, Australians are online more frequently than ever. 84 per cent of those surveyed use the internet at least once daily and 60 per cent use it several times a day. But 26 per cent use the internet infrequently, and rarely for more than online search or email.

The main reason for this isn’t an issue of access or ability to navigate the internet. It’s simply that they’re not interested. And even amongst the most digitally savvy users, adoption of services is not universal.

These findings, which Australia Post recently published in its latest insight paper: Australia’s pathway to a digital economy, indicate the digital divide depends on a complex interplay of the following three factors:

Government can play a role in addressing each of these areas and help all Australians move further along their own digital adoption pathway, so they can realise the full social and economic benefits of our digital world.

Digital access: Affordability is a growing concern

Infrequent users cited lack of access as the other key reason (after lack of interest) for not using the internet more often. Australia received the lowest score form the World Economic Forum for affordability of internet access in 2016, thus highlighting the impact this is having on those on lower incomes.

Ernst and Young’s Digital Australia State of the Nation report pointed out a two-place drop in our global position in the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index in 2017 – down to 18th place. Affordability (particularly of broadband services) is our lowest performing aspect of digital readiness. Speed is also a growing issue. Australia ranks 50th in the world for broadband speeds and this will limit adoption of more advanced digital services.

However, the report also noted that globally, Australia’s government ranks 8th for its ability to deliver services online compared with a more worrying 24th for Australian business.

Digital ability: An appetite for greater digital literacy

In Australia Post’s latest insight paper, Australia’s pathway to a digital economy, 23 per cent of users with access to the internet rated their digital abilities as ‘poor’ or ‘fair’ – and respondents over 65, retirees and those who left school before year 12 are over-represented in this group.

The digital adoption pathway for these groups typically begins when friends or family encourage them to use specific online services, usually starting with email and search. Digital literacy initiatives in schools and communities play an increasingly important role here to ensure they have the skills to use the internet safely and more effectively.

While 94 per cent of Australians surveyed want all government services to be online, just 29 per cent are currently satisfied with their experience. Their most common frustrations included a long or difficult process, technical difficulties and forgetting their user name or password. So even for more digitally capable citizens, user experience plays a crucial role in increasing the use of digital alternatives.

User experience design can also build confidence. Putting thought into the process, intuitive navigation and fewer points of friction (such as multiple password logins) all help to reassure the user as they successfully complete transactions.

Digital attitudes: Prioritise trust and simplicity

The study also measures attitude towards doing various activities online. There’s positive agreement towards using the internet to look up information and keep in touch. However, this is accompanied by the statement, ‘I am anxious my personal information may be available.’

Consumers trust government platforms more than businesses, in general, when it comes to sharing their personal data. But according to Australia’s pathway to a digital economy, they are more likely to use government services if these services are easier to use. This also applies to job search services, and education or training.

The increasing use of disruptive platforms, from Airbnb to Amazon, demonstrates how much simpler an online transaction can be, and this is raised consumer expectations.

We all have a responsibility to ensure those with the most to gain from digital access have the ability to do so. A simple, frictionless and confidence-building user experience could be a good starting point for government services.

To find out more about the online behaviour of Australians, download our insight paper, Australia’s pathway to a digital economy.

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