Connecting remote Indigenous communities

Nov 26, 2013 by Julie Fisher, The Conversation
Many remote communities have been cut off from the internet, missing out on services and skills others take for granted. Credit: yaruman5/flickr

Most remote Australian Indigenous communities have little or no access to digital technology. Last year, three internet-enabled terminals were installed as a trial in the remote communities of Burraluba Yuru Ngurra (Halls Creek WA), Binjari Top Camp (NT) and Bana Yarralji Bubu (Shiptons Flat QLD).

The terminals are robust, free standing units with vandal-resistant screens, keyboards and touchpads, designed to run 24/7 in the harshest conditions. Each has three screens and keyboards so several people can use them simultaneously. Educational games, books, and a child-friendly copy of Wikipedia were included as part of the content.

The trial ran from mid-November 2012 to April 30 2013 and demonstrated that the terminals are a valuable community resource, encouraging digital literacy in all three communities.

Usage data provided by the communities, electronic usage data and visits and observations confirm that:

  • community members have been able to interact with and use the terminals relatively easily
  • the terminals were well used by both children and adults. Both groups accessed a wide range of online and non-online content
  • children, not surprisingly, learned how to use the terminals very quickly and used them extensively for educational purposes
  • adults could do banking and buy goods online (this was previously impossible).

Where were the terminals installed?

The robust terminals gave kids skills they’ll need for the future. Credit: Wunan Foundation

All three communities were very positive and grateful that their community had been chosen for the trial. All think the terminal is an enormous asset for their community, helping community members in many different ways including educationally and socially.

Burraluba Yura Ngurra, Halls Creek (WA) The hostel, managed by the Wunan Foundation, is just outside Halls Creek and is a relatively small community. The terminal in this community was heavily used. The hostel manager and his wife introduced the adults to online banking and websites such as Seek.com. Some of the adults used Skype for communication. The women were encouraged to shop online and bought materials for sewing, the manager's wife at the hostel has been using this activity to improve literacy.

The hostel manager reported that apart from using the internet, the children also read books and played games (those provided all have an education focus, supporting either numeracy or literacy). Children also used the terminal extensively for school work.

Binjari Top Camp (NT) This was the largest community, 20km from Katherine. People in this community used the terminal to watch YouTube videos uploaded by another community, and it encouraged them to be involved in different activities. Children used online educational materials and adults kept up to date on local news and weather.

Before this, there was no access to the internet and community members had minimal internet knowledge. The trial changed this.

Visitors from other communities used the terminal at this site. Children showed their parents how to use the terminal and are sharing with them the work they doing at school. It has helped build computer literacy among the adults. Community representatives expressed surprise at the positive impact this has had on their community.

Bana Yarralji Bubu (Shiptons Flat, Qld) Shipton's Flat is near Cooktown. This is a small community. The children here find the terminal attractive, spending time using it after school. Adults mainly used it to process Centrelink requests, and look at educational websites, local news and weather forecasts. They also used Skype. One eight-year-old child said they thought it was the biggest change they had experienced in the community.

It is clear from this trial that installing robust computer terminals available 24/7 is of major benefit to Indigenous communities. Many locals now have better computer skills and a much greater awareness of computer technology as a result of the trial.

Robust terminals can and do support children's education, developing skills they would not otherwise have.

They have significant potential for remote communities. Such technology can be used to support language and culture and offers opportunities for locally developed content.

Explore further: Anaemia and poor nutrition running high among young Indigenous children

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Greening Europe's seaports and freight terminals

Aug 13, 2013

Sea and inland navigation ports and freight terminals are faced with growing energy costs and major political and societal pressure in terms of their environmental performance.

Community-based programs may help prevent childhood obesity

Jun 17, 2013

When it comes to confronting childhood obesity, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conclude that community-based approaches are important. A systematic review of childhood obesity prevention ...

Study asks: Is a 'better world' possible?

Nov 18, 2013

For years, policymakers have attempted to create communities where a diverse group of residents not only live close to one other but also interact freely – in other words, neighborhoods that are both integrated ...

Recommended for you

UN study: Cellphones can improve literacy

6 hours ago

A study by the U.N. education agency says cellphones are getting more and more people to read in countries where books are rare and illiteracy is high.

Gates-funded student data group to shut down

Apr 21, 2014

The head of a student data processing organization says it will shut down in the coming months following criticism that led to the recent loss of its last active client—New York state.

Four questions about missing Malaysian plane answered

Apr 19, 2014

Travelers at Asian airports have asked questions about the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Here are some of them, followed by answers.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Amazon Prime wins streaming deal with HBO

Amazon scored a deal Wednesday to distribute old shows from premium cable TV channel HBO to its monthly Prime subscribers, landing a blow on rival Netflix in the streaming video battle.

Is nuclear power the only way to avoid geoengineering?

"I think one can argue that if we were to follow a strong nuclear energy pathway—as well as doing everything else that we can—then we can solve the climate problem without doing geoengineering." So says Tom Wigley, one ...