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Helping young minds access the world

"One in six young Australians live in poverty and it’s not right that many students cannot access the digital tools and skills they need for their learning.”

Picture a small child filled with the curiosity and potential of life. They love learning and are a sponge for the words, numbers, ideas and nature around them.


Now picture them not being able to access a computer for their learning. They can’t do a simple internet search about that interesting bug they found in the backyard. They can’t write an essay about the volcano they heard all about from friends.

This early disadvantage can ultimately stifle the kind of job they get, their earning potential and their ability to build a life for themselves.


Now imagine a world where every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of their circumstances. The Smith Family is a charity which aims to help young Australians overcome educational inequality caused by poverty.


How can a child meaningfully engage a technology that dominates modern life when they cannot familiarize themselves with it? This is digital poverty – and it is something The Smith Family and ANZ want to challenge.


Digital Inequity – the new frontier of disadvantage


Digital poverty can have a profound impact on a child's education and skills for future employment. Digital skills are essential for success in the future workforce.


Young Australians who lack exposure to technology will be at a severe disadvantage in the workplace and may struggle to contribute fully to society.


For these reasons, The Smith Family – one of ANZ’s community partners – developed a Digital Learning Essentials program which ensures young Australians in need are digitally included.


The program provides access for young Australians to a reliable device connected to the internet for education, technical support and the opportunity to develop their digital skills.


“Being digitally connected is essential for all Australians to participate in our society. The ability to engage online is fundamental to being able to fully participate in education and develop the skills needed for jobs of the future,” The Smith Family Chief Executive Officer Doug Taylor said.


“But one in six young Australians live in poverty and it’s not right that many students cannot access the digital tools and skills they need for their learning. When we work together to bridge this digital divide, we can ensure no child misses out on the opportunity to make the most of their education.”


When The Smith Family approached ANZ in June, we were eager to help and donated 120 laptops to the program.


ANZ has a long history supporting The Smith Family. For two decades we have worked together to deliver MoneyMinded and Saver Plus, our adult financial education programs. This work shows how both organisations are targeting societal problems over the long haul.


Digital Inclusion


The Smith Family has set a target to grow the number of students supported on the Learning for Life program to 100,000 by 2027. The aim is for all of those students to be digitally included. What model could help The Smith Family reach that goal? An ANZ example could help show the way.


ANZ collaborated with technology equipment leasing partner Vestone Capital and life-cycle services partner Renew IT to donate 120 laptops – putting computers in the hands of families.


An incredible 97 per cent of parents who have received Digital Learning Essentials said having a laptop and internet helped their children’s education.


“I have three kids that all need to use the laptop and internet for school work, so having the device means we no longer need to go to the local library to use theirs,” one parent said.


“A lot of homework and projects involve using certain programs chosen by the school. Without access to those specific programs or websites, my child would be unable to work on her school projects out of school hours,” another said.


In parallel, Paul White, ANZ Divisional Chief Information Officer Australia and passionate supporter of The Smith Family, ran skilled volunteering workshops to enhance the digital program.


During the workshops, the team developed recommendations for 1) secure device deliveries; 2) processes for families to set up their device and 3) remote technology support.

The Smith Family skilled volunteering workshops with ANZ


Paul White, ANZ Divisional CIO Australia, fosters a culture of community within his teams. A great example of this is a skilled volunteering opportunity within his leadership team.


“It seemed like a great way to support one of ANZ’s community partners and at the same time to strengthen our team spirit,” Paul said.


For the last year, Paul’s leadership team and The Smith Family have been collaborating in workshops looking at their digital strategy and roadmap.


Children who participate in The Smith Family's Digital Learning Essentials program are located in communities all around Australia, including in rural and regional communities.


“We leveraged and shared our experience of providing technology support to ANZ's global workforce, especially how to navigate some of the logistical challenges of distributing and returning technology equipment during the COVID pandemic.


Over multiple workshops we iterated our plans, adapting to feedback and insights from The Smith Family's research.” Paul said.


“Helping The Smith Family refine their digital strategy has been a humbling and thoroughly rewarding experiencing for my team and I highly recommend other teams consider how they can support the community through skilled volunteering opportunities.” Paul said.

The ongoing impact


At ANZ, we understand how crucial it is to have access to a reliable device connected to the internet for educational purposes, technical support and the opportunity to develop digital skills.


It is something we want to share. The digital divide is a societal issue that requires a collective effort.


Together, we are giving more young Australians an equal chance to learn and thrive in their education – and building a more prosperous nation for us all.


Tina Biscan is Community and Partnerships Manager at ANZ

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