Remote Territorians have embraced increased access to online services with a nearly 2000 per cent increase in free Wi-Fi usage in 46 remote communities as part of the Territory Labor Government’s Community Internet Service initiative.
A key action in the 2018-19 Digital Territory Action Plan, and delivered by Library & Archives NT, the project has extended the existing network of 34 sites to 46 sites and provided upgrades to all sites with NBN connections.
The rollout was completed in May 2019, and in 2018-19 community internet services were used 485,440 times, up from 23,326 times in 2016-17.
Free access to the internet as an information resource is a core public library service across Australia, and the public library network provides free internet access to millions of Australians. However, many remote communities do not have a library facility, so residents miss out.
Increased connectivity has had positive knock-on benefits, with regional councils using the services to build digital skills programs.
As stated by Minister for Tourism, Sport and Culture; and Minister for Corporate and Information Services, Lauren Moss:
“Connecting Territory communities is a key direction in the Territory Labor Government’s first ever Digital Territory Strategy, to ensure reliable and sustainable internet access to remote communities across the Territory.
“Improved availability of digital technology in the bush helps community residents to access digital services, use social media and transact online.
“The uptake in free Wi-Fi usage in remote communities shows just how important access to digital technology is for Territorians and to help overcome our great distances and isolation.
“While most Australians take internet access for granted, in remote areas in particular issues of connectivity and affordability remain critical. The importance of accessible internet services for full social, economic and political participation cannot be overstated, as the massive increase in usage shows.
“Internet access is vital in today’s world. With many government and commercial services now primarily provided through online channels, internet access is about much more than staying in touch with others – it’s about accessing essential services many of us in more urban areas take for granted.”