Low Socio Economic Rural Households

In the Far West NSW region there are a large percentage of households suffering because of high unemployment, substance abuse, violence and poor health. In some cases, dozens of not for profit and government organisations fly-in and fly-out of rural communities where there are only a few hundred residents. The cost is enormous and the positive impact is negligible.

With high speed broadband connectivity some of the people assisting these communities (and highlighted in various video clips, see the education section) believe there is a real opportunity to:

  • Remove the fly-in, fly-out (and drive-in, drive-out) mentality of support organisations. Designated social workers could live within these communities and be available to liaise with subject matter experts located elsewhere using video-conferencing and telehealth tools. The benefits to the households would include:
    • Having somebody living in the community permanently with whom they could build a level of trust. Many social workers would be more prepared to live in the community for a period of time if they could remain connected to the outside world via internet. This is perhaps one of the biggest benefits high speed broadband can bring to these communities
    • A person who understands their culture. Often, experts who fly-in and fly-out and drive-in, drive-out of communities are insensitive to the culture and needs of the people whom they have been assigned to help. The professionals concerned are often not aware of the social norms of these communities
    • Moving beyond the 9 to 5 culture of support. Most support organisations deliver support during normal working hours. However most of the social issues that affect households occur afterhours or at weekends. Video-conferencing and use of web technology has the potential to provide 24/7 support. If the households in these communities have reliable, high speed broadband connectivity, support can be made available 24/7 either by accessing remote services via broadband or having physical access to a trusted person in the community who can assist immediately in case of an emergency

At present households in the region are generally under-skilled in their use of the internet. Government and education providers must increase the availability of internet related courses to prepare households for the digital economy in the Far West NSW region. While some education is available through the government senior’s initiative and some courses are provided by Robinson College, which is based in Broken Hill, it is generally felt that more training is needed.

Actions

What do we want to do Why Who will do it When Resources
Create a network of high speed broadband advocates – “digital champions” who can share knowledge and shed realistic light on the digital economy. A number of the residents who attended our briefings have agreed to participate. Greater acceptance of technology will facilitate the rate of change and ability to transition benefits smoothly into lives. Local community residents, non profit organisations, RDA Far West NSW will help to facilitate. ongoing To be determined but hoping to share and capitalise on use of existing knowledge and equipment where possible.
Develop a digital buddy programme with the Young Indigenous Leaders Group, whereby the young people in indigenous communities agree to mentor and teach the older generation about the benefits of the internet. Help to improve computer and technology literacy and awareness amongst Indigenous people RDA Far West NSW to facilitate with Department of Aboriginal Affairs (NSW) and Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (Commonwealth) ongoing Look to NSW and Commonwealth Governments for programs and resources as appropriate, philanthropists, non profit groups.
Create a digital buddy program whereby IT professionals in the community and web-savvy young professionals agree to transfer their skills to a household. Help to improve computer and technology literacy and awareness amongst community members in general. A local IT company, Edgnett, have agreed to heading up this initiative and to be facilitated by RDA Far West NSW. ongoing Local professionals
Develop a program where the community recycles PCs, laptops smart phones and tablets. This means as businesses and higher income families upgrade devices their older devices can be made available to lower income households. Waste reduction is promoted while learning and growth evolves. The community members will help each other through this change process. RDA Far West NSW will seek to find a non profit or other organisation to spearhead this initiative. ongoing Some external support may be accessed through grant funds.
Seek funding to enable low socio-economic households to get free or subsidised internet access. Facilitate development of a program to improve access to the internet at low to no cost to people in need. Access in many areas is not available due to cost, lack of technology. RDA Far West to facilitate and involve local not for profit organisations, potential central access points. ongoing Work with external agencies to identify funds (tailor-make the program).
Continue rollout of the CLIP[2] initiative and educate the community on its use, to help households better engage with government services. Help to break the cycle of FIFO/DIDO help by helping our own. Local service providers are already doing this work. ongoing Local providers.
Increase promotion of existing senior’s computer courses and “introduction to the internet” courses. The Far West NSW region has a high proportion of older residents and this work is needed to deliberately engage them in new ways of engaging within the community. Facilitate broad understanding of technology and its uses; transition people into greater use of technology in ways that are relevant to them. Encourage a socially-inclusive community. BHCC, training providers, and some facilitation by RDA Far West NSW. ongoing BHCC Library and staff, and will seek to identify other locations and trainers.

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