A growing divide in the digital age

According to many, technology is a common factor in everyones lives, the means in which we all communicate. And while for many this is true, technologically marginalised groups such as the Indigenous or rural Australians have fallen so far behind that they are now technically illiterate. With only 63% of Indigenous and rural families having access to internet at home, it seems that while everyone was focused on continuing to improve technology, no one is ensuring that basic technological access and skills are enjoyed throughout Australia (Townsend 2014).

One of the major issues associated with limited technology access and ability in these groups is the inability to individually perform the simplest of tasks (Rennie et al. 2016). While services such as Centrelink turn to a fully digital resource base, it becomes apparent that the groups which could rely most upon this government funding, may be unable to access and complete the technological process associated. Limited government funding to support digital literacy programs also ensures the inability to create a network which sufficiently covers the dispersed nature of remote communities and there proportionally small populations (Andreasson 2015). Yet while geographical location is used as an excuse for lacking technical capabilities in rural groups, there is no doubt that benefit is always held by those in the favoured metropolitan cities. While internet and broadband connectivity are the foundation of the networked economy, it is clear even through the government initiated NBN program that technological disparity between rural and metropolitan areas have been severely overlooked (The Conversation 2016).

 

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It is clear the benefits of technology are not being experienced by all Australians.

As the emerging economic environment increases the ‘real time connectivity between people, businesses, devices and systems’, what results is the growing digitalisation of many transactions and importance of data (The Conversation 2016). Yet while this is of great benefit for those who have access to such technology, the growing disparity continues with a number of Indigenous organisations themselves admitting to ‘logistical difficulties providing services and staying in touch with outstation residents’ (Rennie et al. 2016 p. 6). This overwhelming evidence draws the link between social exclusion and digital exclusion (Rennie et al. 2016). While our Indigenous communities in Australia have always felt limited support in areas such as education and health, it seems technology is no becoming no different.

digitaldividetopper
It is vital that governments ensure technology covers the vast landscape of Australia.

While the amount or quality of technology within Australia poses no dramas, the consideration of who is deserving of such material needs reassessment. This reconsideration will address digital cohesion and ensure even our most rural Indigenous communities have access to the digital network.

 

Reference List: 

Andreasson, K. (ed.) 2015, Digital Divides: The New Challenges and Opportunities of e-Inclusion, vol. 195, CRC Press, Florida.

Nirmalathas, Thas, 2016, Regional Australia is crying out for equitable access to broadband, The Conversation, Melbourne, viewed 14 August 2016, <https://theconversation.com/regional-australia-is-crying-out-for-equitable-access-to-broadband-69711&gt;. 

Rennie, E., Hogan, E., Gregory, R., Crouch, A., Wright, A., & Thomas, J. 2016, Internet on the outstation: the digital divide and remote Aboriginal communities, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam.

Townsend, P. 2015, ‘Mob Learning – Digital Communities for Remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tertiary Students’, Journal of Economic and Social Policy, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 1-23.

Image References: 

McMahon, P. c. 2015, Bridging the Digital Divide, Pittsburgh Today, viewed 21 August 2016, <http://pittsburghtoday.org/news/sustainability-watch-internet-access/ >.

Tweedie, P. c. 1980, Aboriginal man Tom Noytuna using newly installed phone for the first time, Imgur, viewed 20 August 2016, <http://imgur.com/gallery/nOik5LD >.

Vincent, M. 2012, Aboriginal child sitting at a computer, One People Many Cultures: Peace through Understanding, viewed 21 August 2016, <http://murraygunn.id.au/blog/?p=1209 >.

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