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Breaking down digital barriers

In a world where many essential services have moved online, we’re working with partners and community members to design solutions that make digital tools accessible for all.

“Years ago when you bought a computer there was a shelf-load of manuals that came with it. 

“That doesn’t happen these days. 

“For many people, it’s try and fail. Try and succeed. Try and try again. It can be very frustrating.”

Kerry Kaminski has been a volunteer digital tutor at the Red Cross Jeays Street Community Centre in Brisbane for four years. He’s seen first-hand the isolating effects of digital exclusion – how, when people aren’t confident navigating online services it can present significant barriers to employment, health and government assistance, education or training, and other essential services. 

“Most organisations want you to do things yourself,” Kerry says. “[They] want you to communicate with them electronically.

“Generally, with people who don’t have that [digital] literacy, it’s: ‘I’m terrified I’m going to make a mistake; I’m going to break it; I don’t know what I’m doing.’”

As a result, he says, many people who visit the centre will avoid computers altogether.

With the current health crisis at hand, and more and more services moving online, people with limited digital access or confidence are experiencing increasing exclusion.

Kerry’s approach to helping people upskill is to go at their pace, and edge out of the ‘driver’s seat’. 

When community members come into the centre needing assistance, he shows them first, then lets them take control. Once they’re comfortable accessing emails, word processing, downloading forms or using new Apps, he’s still there to help with questions and trouble shooting.

“You have to appreciate in this role that you have to go at their pace. The problem with a lot of the apps is that if you only use them once a week it can take you a little while to really get the hang of it.”

One of his ‘star pupils’ he says, has gone from basic emailing to purchasing books and groceries online, to writing a novel. And Kerry’s been supporting him every step of the way.

“He had used email a little bit on the kiosks here, but that was it. Then he came in and said ‘I want to start buying some stuff online’.

“So over a period of a few weeks… I’ve taught him the basics. 

“He’s gone from purchasing books and juggling materials (he’s a juggler in his spare time). He also buys all his groceries online. He has some mobility issues, so basically, rather than him go to the outlet, the outlet comes to him.

“He can now be at home to receive the delivery... That’s made a big difference to him.”

As well as helping people access basic services, the other very real concern that Red Cross is working to address is in helping people manage their money safely online.

For many Australians, the COVID-19 Pandemic has come hand-in-hand with financial uncertainty and stress. So together with Credit Union Australia (CUA) and Infoxchange, we’ve launched a new online learning program to help people identify and avoid scams, and protect their personal information.

Some of the courses are delivered in local communities, but a special online course has been scheduled for 19 August, which means all Australians can do something to protect themselves against online scams this week.

Register for the course

Local community organisations can become partners to deliver courses to people in their local area