With the release in 1994 of the Australian Federal Government’s Creative Nation Report, there was a broad realization among Australian state governments in general about the range of opportunities and significant benefits the Internet might provide. Though commerce was the overall subject matter of the document, the release of the report marked the genesis of e-government in the country. The Australian government embarked on its journey to leverage digital opportunity in government, and was among the first government globally to explore the various tools the Internet offered. The underlying strategic vision of the Creative Nations Report was to support the emergence of Australia into a competitive nation. Hence, e-government programmes initially focused their attention on the need to educate industry about the digital opportunity for economic growth.
The first significant policy in the Australian context that acknowledged the importance of addressing the new forms of social marginalization in the age of the Internet was the national digital divide policy adopted by the Federal Government in 1996. In an effort to reduce disparities of access to telecommunications infrastructure and services, $351m was allocated to projects across regional, rural and remote areas in Australia through the ‘Networking the Nation’ scheme launched in July 1997. This was to become the first of a number of large-scale infrastructure investments in Australia. By 2006, Australian policy makers were seeking to address the digital divide from a social exclusion lens. The relevant Australian government department at that time, the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) published the following statement on its website.
“Current research indicates that the ‘digital divide’ is best understood as part of a socio-economic context and related to the issue of social exclusion. As such, solutions need to go beyond technology. Furthering digital inclusion will require a detailed understanding of the relationship between information, people and technology.”1
- DCITA (2006a), cited in Notley, N and Foth, M. (2008), ‘Extending Australia s digital policy: an examination of the value of social inclusion and social capital policy frameworks’, Australian Social Policy Journal No. 7, http:// eprints.qut.edu.au/12021/1/12021b.pdf, Retrieved 12 November 2015.