Internet 'too expensive' for 40% of seniors

More than 40% of older Australians say the internet is too expensive, according to research from Queensland University of Technology.

Dr Sandra Haukka, from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), surveyed 149 participants aged 50 and older who were members of National Seniors Australia.

According to Dr Haukka, seniors risk being left behind as businesses and government shift more services to the web.

"With the government and private sector spending billions on the National Broadband Network, we have to make sure that the internet can be used by all those who need it the most," she said.

The report found 53% of participants said their interest in the internet was 'moderate' or 'above', while 46% said their interest was 'nil' or 'low'. Almost two-thirds of participants said they had 'very low' internet skills.

More than 40% of participants said cost was a barrier to using the internet, while one-third (34%) of participants said the internet would improve their daily life.

Dr Haukka said: "The internet should help people to live independently for longer, enabling them to learn, bank, shop, communicate and network from home.

"There are serious negative impacts for those without access to it, such as the inability to access Centrelink, which is shifting more and more of its services online, or obtaining their health records from Australia's e-health record system when it becomes widely available in July 2012."

The Australian Government has a Broadband for Seniors initiative, which provides 2000 free internet kiosks in local communities, with trained volunteers to help seniors make the most of the internet. Centrelink also provides a quarterly subsidy for pensioners to help pay for household bills, including internet and phone services.

However, the seniors interviewed by Dr Haukka believed the Government could be doing more to help. "Many seniors told us they need one-on-one help, more cheap classes, equipment, a helpline and clear instructions," Dr Haukka said.

Getting online may not be as expensive as you think. Check out our guide to broadband for seniors and find a plan suited to your budget.