2 million learners and counting: seniors choose to Be Connected online

eSafety Commissioner

Older Australians are continuing to expand their digital skills as the Australian Government’s Be Connected program marks its two millionth learner – and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Be Connected steps learners through cyber safety essentials and builds technical skills through easy-to-understand courses on topics like online banking, shopping and connecting with others online, helping many make the most out of getting online and staying connected with friends and family.

The program’s success is underpinned by a productive partnership combining both online and in-person help to ensure that no matter someone’s digital skill level, they are supported in accessing and safely navigating all the benefits the online world has to offer at their own pace.

This is achieved by the continual development of engaging and audience-focused content by experts at the eSafety Commissioner, and the creation of an unparalleled community-based network by Good Things Foundation Australia.

The Be Connected website, managed by eSafety, is a one-stop-shop with more than 630 free resources providing a treasure-trove of free information, self-paced courses, webinars and more designed to empower older Australians to safely use the internet and digital technology.

This includes translated resources, interactive practice areas, topical articles and a podcast aimed at providing meaningful resources all the way from those at the beginning of their online journey with limited digital literacy, through to older Australians interested in expanding their skills and taking on more intermediate topics.

Good Things Foundation Australia manage grants to a range of community organisations to deliver free one-on-one and group sessions, and loan digital devices to older Australians.

There are over 3,800 Be Connected Community Network Partners across Australia which include a wide range of community organisations, aged care providers, libraries, cultural diversity groups, disability support organisations and men’s sheds. Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said Be Connected continued to play an important role in helping improve the digital literacy of all Australians, making the online world a safer, more positive place for us all to enjoy.

“Technology has a wonderful ability to connect, enable and empower individuals, and we must ensure older Australians are not only included in our increasingly online world, but that they feel confident benefiting from it,” she said.

“It’s difficult for anyone to stay on top of the continually evolving digital landscape as new technologies emerge. For older Australians, who may not feel as comfortable as people who have been online their whole lives, Be Connected’s vast resources help develop confidence and skills to explore and embrace online life safely.

“Reaching 2 million learners since the program’s launch in 2017 shows that people are interested in learning more and getting involved with technology. Be Connected has developed to become a great resource we can share with our loved ones no matter their age or digital skill level. By providing tailored information and advice to build digital literacy skills, we can help everyone connect with their friends and family, access online entertainment and use the important and essential services that matter to them.”

Jess Wilson, CEO of Good Things Foundation Australia, said a great strength of the program is that it gives older Australians both the confidence and the capacity to feel connected and really make the most of technology.

“This program is not just about technology, but helping over 50s to participate in society today,” she said.

“With the emergence of new technologies like AI and the continued digitalisation of so many aspects of life, we need to make sure that everyone has essential digital skills so they don’t get left behind. Our national network of 3,800 diverse community network partners is vital to the success of Be Connected because they provide over-50s with a friendly, trusted space to learn.

“Supporting the community sector with resources, training and grant funding has been essential and over the last seven years we have distributed $30m in small grant funding to community organisations all over Australia to build their capacity to deliver digital literacy programs. We are thrilled that we can continue this work over the next four years, to support people in the community to be confident, safe and connected online.”

Be Connected also includes an intergenerational initiative – Young Mentors – enabling secondary school students to take on the role of digital mentors, allowing them to develop their teaching, communication, and problem-solving skills while making a valuable contribution to the digital inclusion of older people.

While two million people being reached through this program is cause the celebrate, there are many more older Australians who still need support to be connected confidently and safely.

The Australian Government recently extended the Be Connected program through to 2028 to continue this important work in helping to narrow the digital divide.

To boost your digital literacy skills and find a Be Connected Community Network Partner near you, visit the Be Connected website: beconnected.esafety.gov.au

/Public Release.