A new project funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) – and led by QUT’s Digital Media research Centre – will pave the way for investment in digital inclusion policy, interventions, programs, and communications infrastructure across the region.
The project will help improve the profitability and competitive of farmers in the north as well as attract investors to put in place affordable digital networks for all to benefit from.
The 12-month Northern Australian Communication Analysis will mobilise a consortium of research, business and industry partners – including QUT, Premise, James Cook University (JCU), Charles Darwin University (CDU), Centre for Appropriate Technology Ltd (CfAT), and Regional Development Australia, Northern Territory (RDANT) – to identify barriers and provide solutions to enhance telecommunications and internet connectivity, as well as digital inclusion more broadly, in the north.
CRCNA Chair Sheriden Morris said digital inclusion – comprised of access, affordability and digital ability – is essential to economic prosperity, social inclusion and community cohesiveness.
“We know northern Australians, particularly those living in north-west Queensland, the Northern Territory and rural and remote areas of Western Australia, are missing out on the benefits of being connected to technology or lack the skills and means to access the sorts of technology many Australians living in cities, and some larger regional centres, take for granted.
“Understanding why these issues exist and what needs to be done to resolve them will be key to progressing the northern Australian development agenda,” said Ms Morris.
Researchers will spend the next year working with a broad range of industry and community stakeholders across northern Australia, including all levels of governments, telcos, regional development associations, agricultural organisations and bodies, education service providers, health and human services organisations and Indigenous groups.
These stakeholders will be engaged at forums in Cairns and Darwin, which will be hosted by The Cairns Institute (JCU) and The Northern Institute (CDU), respectively.
Associate Professor Michael Dezuanni from QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) said conversations, feedback and data from these groups will help researchers devise a five-year road map for digital inclusion research, practice and policy development for northern Australia.
“We expect our research will help identify opportunities for efficiencies across key agricultural supply chains and help drive investment in digital technologies which are affordable, accessible and user-friendly for people living and working across the north.
“Further, the final Directions Paper will be a key catalyst in terms of influencing future investment and policy planning across the digital and communication infrastructure landscape,” said DMRC Associate Professor Dezuanni.
A draft Directions Paper is due to be delivered by the end of the year with the final report due mid-2020.