Rural Women Online Visits Shepparton, Sharing Free Digital Skills with Women, Bit by Byte

Photo: Max Roux for Rural Women Online

New digital technologies have introduced an unprecedented era of connectivity, fundamentally transforming our lives. While new tech developments have led to a whole host of benefits for large segments of the population — such as remote working, increased profits, and endless time saving measures — a significant number remain excluded, such as women living in regional and remote areas.

Women facing the Digital Divide

Rural Women Online, an initiative of the Victorian Women’s Trust, was created to bridge the digital divide in recognition of the ways in which women are impacted by pervasive digital barriers. For five days, starting Monday 5 August, the Rural Women Online team will be in the city of Shepparton in northern Victoria to deliver a Digital Intensive, including a series of free workshops, talks and one-on-one tech support, all geared towards supporting women to use digital devices with confidence.

“The fact is Australian women who live in regional and remote areas are particularly vulnerable to digital exclusion,” said Bronwyn Johnson, Project Manager, Rural Women Online. “The reasons for these barriers come down to three key things: access, affordability, and digital ability.”

“Access is about your exposure to digital tech and being given the opportunity to learn more about it. Affordability is concerned with the cost of digital devices — which, for many women on lower incomes, is shockingly prohibitive, especially in this cost-of-living crisis,” explained Bronwyn.

“And finally, digital ability is about using tech effectively and with confidence. If we can tick off these three things, it can completely change a woman’s relationship with digital technology. It’s life changing.”

For women who find themselves on the sidelines of tech, barriers to digital spaces goes far beyond being simply ‘out of the loop’. Being able to use digital technology is key to full participation in modern society. It’s the difference between being able to quickly pay a bill online or having to drive across town and wait in a long queue at the post office — the kind of scenario that regularly faces elderly women.

“Digital skills are now essential life skills,” said Mary Crooks AO, Executive Director of the Victorian Women’s Trust. “Imagine trying to navigate online systems like Centrelink or Medicare without any digital know-how — let alone trying to apply for a job or book yourself in for a medical appointment. It can be incredibly frustrating and limiting.”

Addressing Barriers to Access

“The digital we experience today is complex,” said Mary. “Most days there is yet another news report of a sophisticated tech scam targeting people’s hard earned finances. It’s increasingly clear that without proper support, regional women will be left behind, and many may become financially at risk.”

Rural Women Online’s Digital Intensive program in Shepparton seeks to address these concerns by providing a range of digital skills — from applying for a job online to using web design platforms like Canva — while sharing key tips on how to be safe online.

Empowering Women Through Digital Skills

“We’re very excited about the program in Shepparton,” said Bronwyn. “It’s been carefully curated and designed in consultation with people from the local area, delivering key skills based on what women want and need. In September, we’ll be heading to Yackandandah for a similar Digital Intensive. The goal with both programs is to recognise and build on the skills women already have.”


Photo: Max Roux for Rural Women Online

As Shepparton is known as a multicultural regional hub, various sessions will be held led by key cultural leaders from First Nations communities in language, as well as accessible language to cater for newly arrived migrants, for whom English might be a second or third language. The common thread for every session on offer is to build women’s digital confidence.

“In a lot of our conversations with women from the Shepparton region, there was a consistent theme about their experience of digital,” said Mary. “Many felt discouraged or put off, having been so thoroughly patronised about what they can or can’t do tech-wise.”

“Rural Women Online’s Digital Intensive will be a total antidote to that by creating a supportive learning environment. Women will walk away knowing that they are capable, and that digital skills are completely within their wheelhouse.”

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to enhance your digital skills and join a supportive community of learners. The Rural Women Online Digital Intensive will be happening in Shepparton at the McIntosh Centre from Monday 5 August to Friday 9 August 2024.

All sessions are free, bookings essential. View the full program here.

The image shows a woman wearing glasses and smiling. She is sitting near a chair outdoors. Why not on the chair? We'll never know.Ally Oliver-Perham

When she’s not managing communications at VWT, you will find Ally cheerfully bouncing on her toddler’s trampoline (with or without said toddler) or sneaking in few pages of a book. With a passion for gender equality, Ally’s interested in meaningful ways we can work together for social good.