The digital gap has narrowed in Newcastle in the past financial year, new figures show, but the divide in the remainder of the Hunter Region is wider than in north-western NSW.
The Australian Digital Inclusion Index is a study commissioned by Telstra, with data collected by pollsters at Roy Morgan and analysed by experts from RMIT, Swinburne University and the Centre for Social Impact.
It uses a points system to measure digital inclusion - whether people can "access, afford and have the digital ability to connect and use online technology effectively" - with more points indicating a narrower digital divide.
The fourth annual index has rated Newcastle at 62.1 points for 2018/19, up 4.2 points from the previous year.
The result placed Newcastle third in the list of the most digitally inclusive regional Australian centres for the year, behind the Gold Coast and Wollongong.
But the Hunter outside Newcastle did not fare as well, recording a result of 56.3 - more than a point lower than north western NSW, which included towns such as Broken Hill, Cobar, Bourke and Wilcannia.
According to the index, Newcastle's score increased by 8.3 points since 2014, which was "partly underpinned by the take-up of nbn services which have a direct positive impact on access and flow-on effects on affordability".
Telstra's northern NSW regional general manager Michael Marom said the narrowing gap in Newcastle could largely be attributed to improved access to - and affordability of - technology, particularly for students, seniors and people living with a disability.
He said education, income and employment levels were factors in digital literacy in the Hunter outside Newcastle.
"Connected devices are playing a far greater part in our lives now, whether it's agriculture, medicine, transport, smart cities, manufacturing," Mr Marom said.
"All of that is going to create massive employment in the future and digital literacy and the capacity for people to understand things like STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] learning are so critical for new employment opportunities.
"We see digital literacy as a primary driver in order to create those opportunities of the future."
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