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Capacity Augmentation for Digital Inclusion

It’s always surprising and hair-raising whenever you read something that articulates and encapsulates what you’ve been working on, talking about, or trying to grasp for a while. But there’s no such thing as an original thought right?

We’ve been working through the Digital Skills Insights 2019 report from the International Telecommunication Union, and now feel a mix of unease and reinforcement. Particularly the third chapter - Transitioning from the era of capacity building to an era of capacity augmentation: how human and computing capacity can partner for social impact

“Capacity building should now orient people towards the idea of integrating human and computing capacity to leverage technological innovations and to deliver social impact at lower costs”

Absolutely! Yes! This is exactly what we’ve been thinking and talking about for ages.

The definition of capacity augmentation the chapter argues for revolves around combining human capability with computing intelligence, in appropriate and sustainable ways. In the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander context this provides a unique opportunity for our people to combine the longest, continuous data set in human history with technology and use it to our advantage. Nowhere is the potential of this partnership, and its associated cost and scale efficiencies, more compelling than in driving social impact.

We’ve written previously about the digital divide, but the other distance between mainstream and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People we all know about is Close the Gap.

The Commonwealth Government today announced the new Closing the Gap agreement, after a number of years of poor results. As yet there is little detail and no new funding announced. It will be fascinating to see if the government has an appetite for innovation and investment to let Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and Communities self-determine their future and be the change they want to see in the world.

Undoubtedly there will be/are targets that will hopefully be measured annually and achieved well before 2060 and even 2031. But what are the catalysts that are going to facilitate the changes in Communities to achieve the targets? Our belief is that technology and digital capacity augmentation is absolutely one of the solutions with multiple uses that can produce countless positive outcomes.

For example, Target 7 is:

By 2031, increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth (15–24 years) who are in employment, education or training to 67 per cent

Technology and digital capacity augmentation can drive investment and economic activity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities that allows people to develop their own businesses. This provides a pathway for younger people to follow in their education so they are equipped to step into roles in these businesses and even innovate within them. These local businesses can even be proactive and work alongside the education system to meet this end.

Target 16 is:

By 2031, there is a sustained increase in number and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages being spoken

We’ve worked in Communities over the past 2 years where there are only a handful of Traditional Owners who speak the languages of their land. Without technology, in the hands of our own people with the skills to use it expertly, we will struggle to collect, protect, and promote this critical part of our culture and national story.

The possibilities are endless but, to get back to the Digital Skills Insights 2019 report, they will need an enabling framework to ensuring effective and sustainable collaboration between social sector, governments, private sector and entrepreneurs to bring them to reality.

Now is the time to invest in and implement innovative models that can facilitate digital capacity augmentation using appropriate technologies in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities to bridge whatever divide, gap, or hole they are dealing with.

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