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

Freight train industry to miss safety deadline

Apr 16, 2014

The U.S. freight railroad industry says only one-fifth of its track will be equipped with mandatory safety technology to prevent most collisions and derailments by the deadline set by Congress.

Gaza cops trade bullets for laser-tech in training

Apr 14, 2014

Security forces in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are using technology to practice shooting on laser simulators, saving money spent on ammunition in the cash-strapped Palestinian territory.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Venture investments jump to $9.5B in 1Q

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into an increasing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.