Motivation and competency keys to lifting Australian’s adult digital literacy

Low levels of competency with digital media and perceived motivation are core factors behind increasing media literacy within community segments, an ACMA-commissioned research report has found.The Adult digital media literacy needs report found that the comparatively low level of competencies among adult Australians who are non-users or limited users of digital media and communications could be explained by the fact that many of these people have not been required to use technology on a day-to-day basis. see:

17% of adult Australians have never used the internet

A new report issued by the Australian Communication and Media Authority has highlighted that many adult Australians are missing out on the benefits of digital media, because of a lack of skills, individual motivation and economic circumstances.

Motivation, understanding and access essential for Australian adults to participate in the digital world [news release]

A significant minority of adult Australians are missing out on the benefits of new digital media, in particular the internet, because of lack of skills, low individual motivation and economic circumstances according to an Australian Communications and Media Authority report, released today.’This is a challenge because without the necessary skills and motivation, this group of adult Australians will be left behind as digital media becomes increasingly integrated into everyday social, cultural and economic life,’ said Chris Chapman, Chairman of the ACMA.The report, Adult digital media literacy needs, was commissioned to assist the ACMA to understand the attitudes that lie behind the non-use or limited use of digital media (specifically the internet and the mobile phone).According to a consumer survey conducted by the ACMA in April 2009, 17 per cent of Australians aged 18+ have never used the internet. However, the proportion not having used the internet is higher among older Australians, regional Australians and lower income households.’A common characteristic of non-users of digital media and communications is that they have never been required to use technology on a day-to-day basis,’ Mr Chapman said. ‘For example, they might be working outdoors, on the go, in a job that does not involve use of a computer, a stay-at-home parent or a retiree. Not having had the chance to be exposed and experiment online, these people lack an understanding of how the internet works, the commonplace language and terminology, and the ability to transfer skills across applications.’One of the keys to motivating people to increase their digital media literacy is communicating the possible benefits of using digital media to those who do not currently appreciate how the internet might enhance their lives.The research makes it clear there is not a one-size fits all approach to increasing skills and participation, with communication and education needs linked to individual attitudes and circumstances.The report findings will inform development of policies and programs across the states and Commonwealth to build digital media literacy and will assist the ACMA in its provision of consumer advice and protection measures in the areas of cybersafety and e-security.The report is available on the ACMA’s website.


In February 2009, the ACMA commissioned qualitative research to better understand factors influencing non-use or limited use of digital media (specifically internet and mobile phone).The research was conducted by research company GfK Blue Moon. It comprised group discussions and in-depth telephone interviews with adult non-and-limited users of digital media in metropolitan, regional and remote areas of News South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.In the report digital media means the internet and mobile phones. Non- or limited use of the internet was defined in terms of the types of services used and the type of access available. Those who had used the internet more than six times in the previous six months for transactional purposes (such as banking, shopping and using Government services), information gathering, or social connectivity were excluded. The groups included a mix of those with no home access to the internet; access to the internet at home via a dial-up connection; access to the internet at home via a broadband connection.Limited mobile phone usage was defined in terms of usage of applications and functions, including text messaging, static and video cameras, internet access, email access, mp3/mp4 functions and gaming. Within the research ‘established mobile phone features’ were defined as text messages and static camera, and ‘newer mobile phone applications’ referred to video cameras, mp3/mp4 players, GPS and internet connectivity. ‘Attitudes to digital mediaNon- and limited users of digital media indicated that learning how to use the internet is more important than learning how to use new features on their mobile phone. The internet is regarded as unique and offering something they cannot get elsewhere. It provides a range of different opportunities to assist people in everyday social, cultural and economic situations.In contrast, the additional features that this group do not use on mobile phones can be accessed in other ways, such as using a standalone GPS or accessing the internet on a computer. There is therefore less incentive for non- and limited users of digital media to learn how to use this type of application on their mobile phone.Factors impacting use of digital media and communicationsThe research highlighted two key factors affecting people’s attitudes and behaviour in relation to digital media literacy: their existing competencies with using digital media and their level of motivation to become more literate with digital media.A common characteristic of this group of the Australian adult population – the non-users and limited users of the internet and mobile phones – was that they have never been forced to use technology on a day-to-day basis.Participants in the research claimed that purchasing, using, learning more about digital media and communications was not a priority for them. They were happy to carry on with old habits, using alternative ‘traditional methods’.Most non- and limited users held the view that it all appears too difficult. For many using new digital media was regarded as a challenge that would involve a complete overhaul and change of lifestyle.As long as they have an alternative to using digital media, this group is likely to use that method either out of habit, convenience and/or fear.How increased usage of digital media and communications might be encouragedThe research provides a segmentation of non-users and limited users in relation to attitudes, behaviours and skills required to use digital communications and become more digital media literate.Five attitudinal segments were identified: ‘Resistors’, ‘Defensive’, ‘Thirsty’, ‘Potential Transitioners’ and ‘Economisers’. One of the key challenges is engaging with users to allow them to develop higher motivation and competency levels, filling the gap that has been identified by this research.Five attitudinal segmentsNone of the segments appeared to be making an active choice not to use digital media and communications.Three segments claimed to be making an ‘active choice’ not to use digital media – the ‘Resistors’ and ‘Defensive’, and to some degree the ‘Potential Transitioners’.However, in reality it seemed they were expressing excuses in order to cover up their lack of competence.One segment – the ‘Thirsty’ – openly admitted facing barriers, which included their lack of competence, fears and insecurities which prevent usage, while, the ‘Economisers’ identified costs as the major barrier to digital media usage.Skills and communication needs vary according to segments.The main need for those in the ‘Resistors’, ‘Defensive’, and ‘Thirsty’ categories is to develop understanding of underlying assumptions on how the internet works and the commonplace language associated with it.For ‘Potential Transitioners’, the main need is to build confidence with transferable skills and internet security, while, for ‘Economisers,’ the need is to encourage on-going practice and recognise the benefits of adoption.One of the keys to motivating people to increase their digital media literacy is communicating the possible benefits of using digital media to those who do not currently appreciate how the internet might enhance their lives.Nature of the ACMA’s involvement in digital media literacy researchDigital media literacy is understood as ‘the ability to confidently use, participate in and understand digital media and services’. Media literacy has been a topic of interest among education providers for years, and became an interest for media and communications regulators as digital technologies became mainstream and started impacting the use of traditional media and communications.The ACMA’s activities reflect the Australian Government’s strategic priorities of promoting a wider use of digital media and communications technologies for increasing digital inclusion and participation in the digital economy. Digital media literacy is identified as one of the measures of a successful digital economy in the Government’s Digital Economy Future Directions paper.The ACMA undertakes a range of activities that support and promote digital media literacy such as consumer education on e-security and cybersafety. The ACMA has been engaged in digital media literacy research since 2007. The two major objectives of the ACMA’s digital media literacy research are to:

  • provide an evidence base for understanding levels and nature of digital media literacy of the Australian population; and
  • foster a community of interest around digital media literacy.

Information about the ACMA’s digital media literacy activities is available on the website news release was sourced from:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.