ONLINE EVENT: Keyword series – Forum #4 – ‘Development’

Keyword series – Forum #4 – ‘Development’

Several times per year, the DMRC’s Digital Inclusion and Participation program runs a seminar that involves and engages scholars and practitioners from within and external to QUT. For each event we select a key word to inspire discussion and debate.

Our fourth forum was held Tuesday 29th March from 10.00 to 11.30am (AEST) and focused on the keyword ‘development’. The intent is to evoke thought and discourse about how digital inclusion can enable development in individuals, organisations and communities, but can also deepen the divide between those with and those without opportunities to participate in the digital economy.

The key word event is a 90-minute Zoom seminar comprising of three speakers: an established researcher, a higher degree researcher, and an industry practitioner. Each panel member  spoke for 15 minutes addressing the theme of ‘development’ and digital inclusion in relation to their field of work or research, followed by 30 mins of Q&A from the audience.

Topic introduction: Digital inclusion and development

Development: (

Noun: the process in which someone or something grows or changes and becomes more advanced.

Digital inclusion describes a state of having access to reliable, affordable digital technologies and internet connections, and possessing the skills to use them effectively. It is closely related to social and economic inclusion, whereby people from high socioeconomic backgrounds tend to have better access to digital technology and digital skills to match; the greater a person’s digital access and skills, the more likely they are to thrive in life and work.

Digital inclusion is fast becoming a key principle of economic and social development. In Australia, digital inclusion was recently named as the 14th Closing the Gap socioeconomic target for Indigenous Australians (Australian Government, 2022). Internationally, The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2021) has released a ‘roadmap for digital cooperation’ to leverage digital technologies for social inclusion founded on the principle that “leaving no one behind means leaving no one offline” (p. 1).

Moreover, digital inclusion is becoming ‘baked in’ to government and industry policy and regulation. Federal and state governments of Australia are moving towards ‘digital first’ and ‘digital by default’ service models, particiaulry in the areas of social services, welfare and tax. In industry, small and large businesses in agriculture and manufacturing are upgrading and upskilling to digital production and services models. Digital development is considered to be essential to survive in the 21st century.

It may seem somewhat obvious that digital inclusion and socioeconomic development should go hand-in-hand, providing clear benefits for individuals, communities and societies. But does digital inclusion always ‘advance’ people? How else might we understand and conceptualise digital inclusion and development?

Our panel will address digital inclusion issues related to development within their fields. The forum will provide participants an opportunity to reflect on their own research and practice, and to question some assumptions that underpin the field of digital inclusion.


We will hear three diverse interpretations of the theme ‘Digital inclusion and development’.

Prof Hurriyet Babacan (AM) is a Professorial Research Fellow at University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Business and Economics and is also the Research Director at the Rural Economies Centre of Excellence. Hurriyet has an extensive track record of leading multidisciplinary research in Australia and the Asia Pacific. She has published widely in national and international publications relating to economic and social development including two publications for UNESCO. Her research interests include inclusive and sustainable economic development, regional development, policy and governance, social inclusion and wellbeing, culture and diversity and gender. Hurriyet has held senior public service roles including Victorian Manager of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Executive Director Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet, Commissioner, Victorian Government and CEO of Tablelands Regional Council.  Hurriyet has been given many awards for her work including the Order of Australia, Prime Minister’s Bi-Centennial Medal, and Telstra Business Women’s Award.
Megan Bonetti is an experienced social worker and leads BHC’s (Brisbane Housing Company) Community Development team. Megan has extensive expertise in developing and leading community programs for a range of not- for-profits and has a passion for collaboration across community and systems to empower individuals and communities to thrive. As well as community development experience, Megan has research and advocacy expertise. Recent examples of work include implementing place-based domestic and family violence prevention strategies across south east Queensland, including in-school education and community groups; collaborative COVID-19 in-home learning response conducted with Education Qld Executive in supporting vulnerable children and young people to attend school and thrive in in-home learning environments; and research project (PhD) with the University of Queensland regarding the experience of later life care for CALD communities.
Aimee Hourigan is a PhD Candidate in the Digital Media Research Centre. Her research emerges at the intersection of digital inclusion, decolonial design, and ‘international development’ studies. As a priority, her work explores how greater ownership of digital inclusion agendas can be garnered amongst Pasifika communities to critically question the effects of on-going Western/colonial hegemonies in the construction of ‘modern’ subjectivities and the enactment of ‘modern’ life.


About the DMRC’s Digital inclusion and participation program

Working in partnership with industry, government and community organisations, this program uses innovative digital ethnographic and co-design methods to understand, intervene, and advocate for digital access and literacy as vital elements of social inclusion. We help equip citizens and consumers with the knowledge and skills to confidently, effectively and ethically navigate the increasingly complex digital media environment; and we deliver actionable new knowledge of the structural conditions and circumstances that impact on equitable and safe participation in the digital society.


Australian Government (2022) SOCIOECONOMIC OUTCOME AREA 17: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to information and services enabling participation in informed decision-making regarding their own lives, Productivity Commissions, Canberra.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2021). Policy brief 92: Leveraging digital technologies for social inclusion.