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Digital mentoring tips for organisations working with low income families

QUT and Good Things Foundation Australia share our five top tips for digital mentors and community organisations supporting low income families to get online.

Lots of people need an extra helping hand to get online confidently, safely and affordably.

This Get Online Week, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Good Things Foundation Australia have partnered to share our five top tips for digital mentors and community organisations supporting low income families.

1. Be clear about the intended outcomes of your activities

  • Do you want to enable young people to complete homework at home?
  • Do you want to improve the digital literacy of parents?
  • Do you want to help people get a job or access health services?
  • How will you measure the success of your program?

Knowing what you want your program to achieve is important, as digital inclusion looks different for different people, groups and families.

2. Tailor your support to your community’s needs

Busy families may not be interested in a “digital inclusion” or “computer skills” program, but may be interested in learning how to keep their kids safe online.

Ask the families you work with what they would like to learn, when they would be available and what digital inclusion support would be most impactful for them. Use this info to tailor your programs and activities so they are interesting, relevant, and motivating for your community. If you can make a digital skills program sound useful, offer refreshments to make the space welcoming and build a sense of community, people are more likely to attend.

3. Quality over quantity when providing internet-connected devices

It can be tempting to focus on numbers and providing as much internet access to as many people as possible. But, the types of connections and devices can have a real impact on the program’s success. Think about what will best meet the needs of your community. Do you need a library of devices your organisation can use for outreach work? Or, do your families need access to their own device in their home?

For example, a laptop with a broadband connection is more valuable for a high school student, while a tablet with learning and services apps and free mobile data may be more helpful for families with very young children. Desktop PCs and laptops can be useful for parents who are doing online training and study, and can also be used by younger children for homework tasks.

4. Sustainable connections are as important as appropriate devices

Many low-income families rely on expensive pre-paid mobile data that is shared among family members. Data can run out, or parents may be making decisions about who in the family needs it most. If families have devices, they may benefit from having access to low-cost broadband at home or an affordable pre-paid mobile package with suitable data.

Share this Get Online Week resource with the families you work with to see if they’re eligible for discounted internet connections or can find a better deal. If you are loaning devices, can your organisation cover the cost of data for the loan period while people look for an affordable longer-term connection?

5. Connect with others

There are many organisations and local groups that are working to improve digital inclusion for Australians. By connecting with others you will get a greater understanding of your community’s needs and current activities. Look at how you can embed digital skills and access activities within your existing programs for families and build on the work already being done by others in your community. Taking this place-based approach to digital inclusion means any programs you run will be more sustainable long-term.

You can also connect with national organisations like Good Things Foundation Australia (including our community resources and collated parents & families learning resources), ACCAN and the eSafety Commissioner for additional free resources and to meet other people running digital inclusion programs.

About this project

The “Advancing digital inclusion in low income Australian families” research project is running 2021-2023. It is a partnership with Queensland University of Technology, Western Sydney University, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology, Good Things Foundation Australia, The Smith Family, yourtown, Infoxchange and the Digital Literacy Foundation.

This research is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council.