ALMOST a third of Australians aged 50 and over have little or no engagement with the online world. Three-quarters of these people are aged 70 and over.
New research from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner shows that a staggering 2.7 million over-50s can't visit websites, update details online or keep up to date with family via the internet.
The report says a major "fear factor" exists among older people who have low digital literacy. Technology often proves intimidating, reinforced by a lack of confidence to ask for help or knowledge of where to get help.
At the other end of the scale, the almost 70 per cent of older Australians who are digitally literate use the internet many times a day. Most of these "digitally confident" people fall in the 50-65 age group.
"We know anecdotally that older Australians can be a more trusting generation - our research bears this out, with 40 per cent of those aged 50 and over experiencing a computer virus or being the victim of a scam, credit card or personal information theft," said eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.
"Our research reveals that being safe online is front of mind for older Australians, and having the necessary know-how to engage online safely is critical to building confidence."
Smartphones are the most common digital device participants have access to, with close to seven in 10 using one. This dropped to 57 per cent for those aged 70-79 and 34 per cent for those 80 and over.
Laptops, desktops and tablets followed in popularity.
SO where to from here? Getting more people connected is the aim of the eSafety Commissioner.
The Be Connected program, a partnership between the eSafety Office and the Department of Social Services, is a national network of community groups delivering free face-to-face coaching supported by the Good Things Foundation Australia.
"The Be Connected website addresses the online safety and security needs of older Australians by providing resources and training on highly relevant topics, such as how to avoid online scams," Ms Inman Grant said.
And while half of over-50s are happy to use online resources, not surprisingly 72 per cent prefer good old-fashioned face-to-face, one-on-one coaching. This is where the Be Connected Network comes in.
"We're excited to have over 1200 community organisations across the country in the Be Connected Network, from libraries to retirement villages, community centres to men's sheds, all supporting older Australians to get online," said Good Things Foundation national director Jess Wilson.
- Find out more at www.beconnectednetwork.org.au or call the helpline 1300-795-897.