Current State and Future Vision
The end goal is to see every household in the Far West NSW region provided with high speed broadband access and education on the benefits of high speed internet, and how to take advantage of those benefits.
Far West NSW has a high proportion of households that fit into the categories of low income, aging, indigenous and isolated. The challenge for leaders in the region is selling the vision of what access to high speed broadband can enable and how the digital economy will improve their lives in many ways.
Due to the extremely poor internet coverage in the area, this will be a bigger challenge than in other regions. Those with adequate ADSL connections are already using tools like Skype, an online video conferencing program, YouTube and Facebook for social networking. However, due to the low speeds and inconsistent reliability of the internet in the Far West NSW region, many households are yet to reach a stage where they have sufficient knowledge of the tools that are available and as such find it difficult to envisage how high speed broadband will empower their lives. There are people in the community who have a negative perception of the internet, and the NBN due to internet access promises made and broken in the past by internet service providers. However on a more positive note, as one local remarked, it is a case of a large percentage of the population “not knowing what they don’t know”. If the awareness of the potential is increased, then people are more likely to become engaged.
Encouragingly, there are also residents we spoke to in Broken Hill who understand the potential of high speed broadband. One example is the retired couple Ken and Frankie, who came to our briefing session. Ken was taking a senior’s class on computers and both he and his wife well understood the value and potential of an economy powered by high speed broadband.
If we apply these benefits to the Far West NSW region specifically we can see how it will foster a more vibrant community.
|What do we want to do||Why||Who will do it||When||Resources|
|Provide high speed internet access to new residents to the region to encourage permanent relocation, rather than find alternative fly-in fly-out arrangements as acceptable. High speed broadband can help to reduce ‘fly-in, fly out’ among professionals in the mining and health sectors. The Far West NSW population decline can be reversed.||Current lack of high speed connectivity. With a lower cost of living, fast internet and a great sense of community, families will find Broken Hill and Far West NSW a more appealing place to live.||Marketing by BHCC, Central Darling Shire Council others in region.||ongoing||Social media, websites, literature produced for regional marketing, target grant programs.|
|Ability to buy online. Families moving from larger urban centres will no longer be frustrated by the lack of variety in rural towns in terms of shopping. High speed broadband will make it more compelling to live in rural areas. Local shops can gain the skills and technology necessary to prosper in e-retailing.||Greater access to goods and services online is desired. Also, local businesses can prosper by accessing larger markets.||Broken Hill Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise Development Centre, others.||ongoing||Identify grants to (a) support training for local businesses in e-commerce and (b) engage households in use of online technologies|
|Provide residents with the ability and knowledge to learn online and reach a greater variety of education courses, communicate globally using social networks, access entertainment services, engage with technological advances in ‘smart homes’, access health and other specialist services – these are just some of the growing list of lifestyle improvements being demanded by residents in our region.||We seek economic growth in our region, but we also want the quality of life and social engagement for individuals in our region to be the best possible. We want lifestyle in our region to be made more enjoyable, rewarding due to the enabling features of technology.||BHCC, Broken Hill Chamber of Commerce, EDC, other community organisations and volunteers, some registered training bodies.||ongoing||BHCC Library kiosks, staff, internet connections, various supporting grant funds.|
|Develop a formal course that is offered to the community “The Digital Household”. This course will be developed and marketed by both the local TAFE and BHCC. The courses should be offered free of charge. The course is to accelerate knowledge of what to do with high speed broadband.||It is unclear whether the digital hub funding will be provided beyond the first 40 NBN sites. The local councils need to provide leadership in this area and in conjunction with training need to market the benefits of engagement with the NBN to households.||TAFE, BHCC, others will be included, e.g. Central Darling Shire, Village Committees in Tibooburra, Silverton.||ongoing||Funding assistance will be sought.|