The Australian Digital Inclusion Index

Find out more about the Australian Digital Inclusion Index and how it is constructed.

What is the Australian Digital Inclusion Index?

Three older women looking at a smartphone device

The Australian Digital Inclusion Index uses data from the Australian Internet Usage Survey to measure digital inclusion across three dimensions of Access, Affordability and Digital Ability. We explore how these dimensions vary across Australia and across different social groups.

The Index measures these three dimensions because research shows they are the key requirements of digital inclusion. Where early research on digital inclusion focussed on questions of access [1], subsequent work has shown the influence of digital skills or abilities [2], and affordability challenges, as the use of online technologies has grown [3].

Measuring digital inclusion requires paying attention to each of these dimensions at the same time.

Considering access alone provides only part of the picture. To fully understand digital inclusion, we also need to understand how affordability and digital capability also impacts participation.

The ADII was first developed in 2015 in response to the increasing need for data to inform the development of more effective policies, products, and programs to improve digital inclusion and ensure no one misses out.

In addition to, and preceding, the Index, valuable data relating to digital inclusion in Australia have been collected by government, commercial and non-government organisations. The Australian Communications and Media Authority publishes regular research on aspects of Australian digital access and activity [4], and the professional services group EY Sweeney has produced three iterations (2014, 2015-16, 2017) of their Digital Australia State of the Nation report [5].

It is noted that The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has discontinued their biennial Household Use of Information Technology Survey [6], and the 2021 Census of Population and Housing did not include questions on internet access [7] which was an important data source on understanding digital inclusion.

Revised to reflect the evolution of usage patterns and the skills required to navigate life online, the 2021 Australian Digital Inclusion Index provides a detailed measure of digital inclusion for Australia allowing us to identify critical barriers to inclusion. These may be related to access, the costs of devices or data, or skills and literacies. By identifying these barriers, the Index can help shape initiatives to improve digital inclusion in Australia.

The ADII dimensions

The Australian Digital Inclusion Index is a relative measure of inclusion. Using a score of 0-100, it compares the degree to which individuals can be considered more digitally included than others based on three dimensions: Access, Affordability, and Digital Ability. A score closer to 100 indicates higher inclusion while scores closer to 0 indicates greater exclusion. Learn more about how to read the data here.

Each of the three ADII dimensions are made up of multiple components, which are sourced directly from the Australian Internet Usage Survey (AIUS) questions. The AIUS sampling and recruitment method can be found here.


Access is about the types of digital connections and devices and how frequently we use them to get online. It also includes how much data we can use.

A typical individual with a high Access score has: 

  • Daily use and high intensity of use.
  • Fixed broadband.
  • Fast and unlimited data allowances that are not exceeded.
  • Access via a range of devices. 

Frequency and intensity of use, ranging from no use at all to daily use.

Connection type, such as fixed broadband or mobile-only.

Data allowance and speed.

Types of devices, including desktops, laptops, smart phones, tablets, and an array of smart home devices.


The Affordability dimension measures the percentage of household income required to gain a good quality service with reliable connectivity. To do this, we consider the price of a basket of goods and services required for a well-connected household.

A person with the highest Affordability score would pay 2% or less of their household income for the internet bundle. This is based on an international standard [8], which suggests households should not be paying more than 2% of their income for access.

We also identify Affordability stress.

The Affordability stress score describes the percentage of household income required for a family or single-headed household to gain access to a defined Internet Bundle. It occurs when the lowest income groups (typically defined as those in the lowest 40% of the income distribution) must pay a relatively large proportion of their income to access the internet bundle.

The Affordability stress score categorises expenditure on the internet bundle in four categories: up to 2% of household income; up to 5% of household income; up to 10% of household income; and more than 10% of household income.

Paying more than 5% of their household income on the internet bundle would tip many lower income households into Affordability stress, compromising their capacity to pay for other essential household items. To avoid this, many lower-income households may buy cheaper and often inferior connections and devices that limit the quality of connections and opportunities of internet use.

Households that would have to pay more than 5% of their household income to access the internet bundle are considered to have ‘low Affordability’. Households that would have to pay less than 5% of their household income are considered to have ‘high Affordability’.

Ratio of household income to the median cost of an ‘internet bundle’ for an ideally connected single-headed and family household.

The internet bundle enables both quality and reliable connectivity through:

– A fast internet service, including a cable (HFC) service, NBN 50 or above, or 5G wireless service.

– Unlimited monthly data allowance through a fixed broadband service.

– Mobile broadband or mobile phone data allowance above 61GB per month.

Digital Ability

Digital Ability is about our skill levels, what we are able do online, and our confidence in doing it. A person with a high Digital Ability score can perform the range of tasks across each domain while those with lower scores may only have basic or no operational skills.

Basic operational: Including downloading and opening files, connecting to the internet, and setting passwords.

Advanced operational: Including saving to the cloud, determining what is safe to download, customising devices and connections, and adjusting privacy settings.

Information navigation: Including searching and navigating, verifying trustworthy information, and managing third party data collection.

Social: Including deciding what to share, how, and who with, manage and monitor contacts, and communicate with others.

Creative: Including editing, producing, and posting content, as well as a broad understanding of the rules that may apply to these activities.

Automation: Including connecting, operating, and managing smart devices and IoT technologies.


[1] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, “Understanding the Digital Divide”, OECD Digital Economy Papers, No. 49, OECD Publishing 2001, 

[2] E Hargittai, “Second-Level Digital Divide: Differences in People’s Online Skills,” First Monday 7, no. 4 (2002).

N Selwyn, “Reconsidering Political and Popular Understandings of the Digital Divide,” New Media & Society 6, no. 3 (2004): 341–62.

L D Stanley, “Beyond Access: Psychosocial Barriers to Computer Literacy Special Issue: ICTs and Community Networking,” The Information Society 19, no. 5 (2003): 407–16.

J A G M van Dijk, “Digital Divide Research, Achievements and Shortcomings,” Poetics 34, no. 4-5 (2006): 221–35.

M Warschauer, “Reconceptualising the Digital Divide,” First Monday 7, no. 7 (2002).

[3] G Ogle, and R Law, Connectivity Costs II: Telecommunications Affordability and Waged Poor Households: Survey Final Report, 2020. Sydney: Australian Communications Consumer Action Network. Accessed August 6, 2021.

S Wise, Trying to connect: Telecommunications access and affordability among people experiencing financial hardship, 2013. Accessed August 6, 2021.

[4] Australian Communications and Media Authority, Research Program. Accessed September 9, 2021.

[5] EY Sweeney, Digital Australia: State of the Nation 2017, 2017. Accessed August 12, 2020.

[6] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Household Use of Information Technology 2016-2017, 2018b, cat. no. 8146.0, Canberra, ABS.

[7] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing: Topic Directions 2021, 2018a, cat. no. 2007.0.55.001, Canberra, ABS.

[8] Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, 2025 Targets: Connecting the Other Half. Accessed September 7, 2021. 

Alliance for Affordable Internet, Affordable Internet – Journey from 1 to 5, 2021. Accessed September 14, 2021.

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