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Improving access to new technologies.

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8 June 2000



Today I have tabled in Parliament the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s report into access to electronic commerce and new technology services by older Australians and people with a disability.

The report found that a wide range of physical, financial and psychological issues may inhibit some Australians from using information technology, such as Internet sites and electronic banking. However, the report shows that addressing these barriers is not necessarily difficult. Rather, it requires planning and awareness. Government, business and community groups can work together to achieve this.

The report supports the initiatives taken and improvements made by the Commonwealth Government to address accessibility problems for older Australians and people with a disability. For example, the report welcomes the passage of the Electronic Transactions Act 1999 which allows Australians to use the Internet to provide a range of Commonwealth departments and agencies with electronic documents which are as legally sound as traditional paperwork. The report also welcomes recent and pending reforms to copyright law that will improve accessibility to electronic information. The

Commission also recognises that a number of Commonwealth agencies have made significant progress in improving accessibility to their web sites in the past few months.

This inquiry is an example of the Government’s commitment to making new information technologies accessible for all Australians. As a mark of this commitment, I have asked my Department to look at implementing the Commission’s recommendation to donate superseded computer equipment to appropriate recipients. My Department has also been working to ensure that its website meets the accessibility standards recommended by the Commission.

As more Australian businesses turn to electronic commerce and new technology, it is vital that people who find it difficult to access such technologies are not shut out of the benefits of the information age.

The Commission’s inquiry and report are a positive contribution to improving the accessibility of new technology. I am encouraged by indications from the Australian Bankers’ Association and the Internet Industry Association that they will continue to address issues raised by the Report in consultation with the Commission, government and community groups.

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