Only one household out of 30 in the Kwale Kwale, Mungalawuru, and Imangara communities in Central Australia is connected to the internet.
The Home Internet for Remote Indigenous Communities provides a baseline study of communication use in these three remote communities. It includes an overview of existing policies, demonstrating the significance of the intersection between communications and social policy for indigenous consumers living in remote communities.
The research was conducted jointly by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation at Swinburne University (CCi), the Centre of Appropriate Technologies (CAT) and the Central Land Council (CLC), who engaged with residents in these communities in order to identify the potential of home internet access in their remote communities.
Broadband access has the potential to facilitate a choice by Aboriginal peoples to continue living on remote traditional lands without suffering disadvantage in access to information and services. While only about a third of residents had been online, community members identified several ways that being connected could positively effect everyday life in their communities. Young people's education, access to services, contacting friends and relatives, entertainment, enterprise, and creating local content were nominated as possible drivers for internet take up.
Findings suggest that efforts to bring home internet access to remote indigenous communities must go beyond infrastructure, to acknowledge community specific concerns and challenges that include cost; concerns for children; lack of support, training, and maintenance; limited experience with computers; limited English literacy; concerns over physical security; and notions of the home.
The report recommends a Broadband Assistance program that would provide accessible information about options for internet service providers and strategies for overcoming related challenges (such as securing a phone line and addressing electricity problems).
With funding from the Australian Research Council and the Aboriginals Benefit Account, the project will build on this report by trailling the installation of home internet access in Kwale Kwale, Mungalawuru, and Imangara through shared Wi-Fi networks with community level billing options. While significant government investments have been made in communal internet cafe approaches in larger towns, the maintenance and resources involved make this kind of approach less viable for small communities.
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