Media Release | 14 January 2020
Digital Divide Challenge for Older People in Bushfire Recovery
Age more than any other factor defines digital inequality in Australia
The CEO of the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria, Tina Hogarth-Clarke said many older victims of the bushfires could have a significant challenge in bridging the digital divide as they deal with the loss of personal information in the tragic fires.
“The loss of all personal information in the bushfire can become the MISSING LINK in the personal battle to regain the information that holds the key to progress in the recovery.
“The rapid transfer of all essential services online including water, gas and power, pensions, unemployment benefits, medical information, banking, transport concessions and almost everything that impacts on the daily lives of older people is already a major challenge for many Victorians and their families.
“These issues will be compounded by the bushfires where homes and property have been destroyed and important paperwork and personal identification is usually totally consumed by the fire.”
Ms Hogarth-Clarke said this can be extremely difficult for anyone involved in dealing with the aftermath of a bushfire and the loss of a home or business. The trauma of the current bushfires complicates the issue causing people enormous stress and uncertainty.
Very few organisations provide paper-based processes and if people need assistance to overcome this they can get in contact with COTA Victoria and other financial emergency services.
“The success of the enormous amount of planning and ongoing communication from government, agencies, the Insurance Council of Australia and local government will be an important factor in overcoming the digital divide during the bushfire reconstruction.”
COTA Victoria believes libraries throughout Victoria will have a major role to play in providing access for older Victorians to computer services and training, particularly in country and regional areas where distance is a major issue.
Ms Hogarth-Clarke said libraries have always been a vital community asset as a meeting place and can provide access to the internet to facilitate social connection with Facebook and emails.
COTA Victoria’s helpline: 1300 13 50 90.
COTA Victoria Bushfire Information page.
Media Enquiries: Ron Smith, Special Projects, COTA Victoria – Mobile: 0417 329 201