Reflections for Glen

The purpose of this blog

We are supporting Glen Parkes PHD Candidate at the University of Southern Queensland. These reflections are for his purposes, though we don't mind sharing them with interested onlookers.

As we travel the NT and Qld in 2014, we are reflecting on the impact of Internet access being installed in very small and remote outstations. The installation, connection help and training is part of our 2014 project, Indigenous Communication program - Internet element- for the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet.


August 2014 - Qld thoughts

Sitting beside Pennefather lagoon. There's a big croc in this lagoon, so we are not fishing after dark. Saw him today a few times, and he rules.
Been thinking about potential project development re some of the communities you are talking too. These ideas are prob not as sophisticated as yours, but they may help.
Keep thinking about M and the situation they are in and what they want to try and do even though she may not have the skills, knowledge and even support. On all that, I think the following:
1 Device ownership. I think that personal ownership of devices is key to development of skills, technical knowledge and that socio-technical knowledge that is recurrent passage into the device ownership/social online culture. I used to write about device ownership with respect to teachers and ICTs such a long time ago, but the principle remains true for the general community but the connectedness changes the context. I think this context is changing in multiple ways. You can't share an tablet or phone successfully really. There are so many online services folks use that are linked to personal accounts. It is almost inadvisable to share your device. The era of public terminals like those in the office at Shiptons is over. Though you may want to talk to Lindy about the effectiveness if the "hole in the wall" projects in India. As a historical context, many indigenous communities have been served very well by state libraries installing public and free internet capable machines for people to use. There are places still with them. Wujal, Lockhart, Hopevale and many in the Torres straits. As next G gave people mobile phones, there's a real shift from public computing to personal devices. The price and size of them makes them accessible and able to be safely stored/controlled in am Indigenous household/camp. Another interesting recent-history note is that there have been endless training courses hosted in the bigger communities for years - as part of Backing Indigenous Ability project plus work for the dole schemes where people has to be training to qualify for benefits.    The public training model of the past no longer seems useful to help people use the devices and join in the online culture.
The context ( to get back on track) is also changing in that people who personally own a device learn how to be part of the connected culture - much different to the past where we taught people how to use the device. Now we show them connected services linked to things they want do and people they want to connect to. The personal network is something that develops quickly because people we know are online and they do cool stuff we want to know about and do. We do things with other people and so learning to use your device is about learning to join in, be with others, be part of the crowd and move from follower to leader...... So training models don't work - who goes to workshops to use an iPad the first few times. Who does a workshop on using word, or power point or even searching the internet anymore? It's now a network of knowledge model. You know something cool, you share that, show it to people around you or ask " How did you do that?". It may be closer to an informal mentoring model. I'm sure you have the language and readings to put all that more elegantly ......
So Indigenous young people learn how to join in without formal help, but maybe like young children, they know some things but not other things, that might have to be taught in some way, or at least learned some how. What is the public (online?) space that takes people from users to creators and followers to leaders. Ownership of devices is the enabler .... I also think adults (remembering M wanting a training Course and trying to write everything down), may need to be taught and helped to gain confidence and how to learn skills and how to gain knowledge. Again, Ownership means personal and private practice (which Indigenous people often need for keeping face), a need to learn, development of knowledge that comes from being an insider in this online culture.
I think M needs her own devices. She may need support to overcome the biases of old ways of learning (prob a training model for her), to adopt new ways, to thinking about what she wants to do on line, with whom etc. Maybe a mentoring model of sorts - coaching in a gentle way, which gets her timely help and teaches her a little bit at a time in a drip feed type way. Continuous help until confidence and different ways of learning take over, to the point she can figure it out, try and experiment and teach others. Thus any model you think of trying here, needs to involve more of the family....local help, as well as folks like you and me.
2. Space to play- fleshing out the ideas above. We have found that giving people a nurtured space to play with technology is a powerful way of learning to lean how to use the technology, the technology tools and spaces and learn to draw from online community for knowledge or kinship etc. Others that have worked in Indigenous Communities agree. Less structure, open ended tasks and personal projects with help where they need it to overcome hurdles or be given ideas or models to strive for. I have written this up before. The conversation with M you and I had, showed me that she had not had that space to gain confidence and skills. She described she wanted training and she said some of it should be for just her and P. That's asking for space to learn without losing face when she might "fail" if others were watching. She is a well known leader and elder, so maybe others watching her learn would not be tolerable.
This may be also why non-clan people to teach her May be palatable - hence talking to you and I. It's an idea to explore. Relying on you and I has disadvantages. We are fly-ins and not there enough. If we were to drop in once a week, it would be ideal. But when you are there in sept and when we drop back, we can all keep her learning. If she has her own device, she will have that safe space to learn and once she connects, maybe we can chat often. This is the exciting Gary for your study. In a pretty cool space like Facebook, can it become her support space, especially if we get her to clearly define private chat conversations and public newspaper style feeds. She would also then learn to diarise her lifestyle events a bit and we can model that. she needs a play space before launching on a more elaborate comms project or mentoring others who might be involved in that.
3. Training local expertise She mentioned an older daughter or grand daughter she thought would benefit from being involved. There is a bit of a story there probably, but M mentioned giving her protégé a purposeful thing to do and to move back to contributing to the community.  She seemed willing to even buy that person a computer to get them involved. If this works out, we could look at the same combination of face to face and online learning (blended learning I believe), using a online mentor or coach model – probably describe it as an online friend - Internet pal ( like the old pen pals). By training a person and mentoring them to help others (including ways of doing that), you might end up with an interesting case study.
I think there is a lot of mileage in the idea of training one person towards leadership and that person helping people be part of an ongoing program. In saying that, there is huge value in more than one being involved, given the mobility and the capability of things falling over if you centre on one person.  I have an image in my head of a couple of local “Online  Network leaders” being intensely mentored to get going and to help them set tasks to do (more on that soon), and then they help others get online to be mentored by the group – you, the Online network leaders and maybe me. M  could join in to watch and be encouraged to join in, all the way. As they become more sophisticated in their use of social media and other tools, they will soon set the directions. They have to agree to maintain, as well as start new things.
I think that a mentoring program for leaders could include tasks like
  • Setting up a facebook profile and reviewing settings
  • Establishing a protocol about facebook use - to protect them from the repercussions of silly posts later on – a digital footprint awareness type thinking.
  • Watching and exploring ideas for Facebook pages – maybe find the best 10 pages for ideas.
  • Learning how to set up a page and get it established.
  • Talking about how to maintain it and personal profiles
  • Promotion of Facebook pages.
  • Maybe then look at Twitter, You tube or other feeds etc.
  • Then look at other social spaces for photos etc – all about gaining experience and a positive online footprint.
  • Talking to others about a positive footprint
  • Ways of helping others be involved and collective decision making.
Within this, there would need to be lots of support to help the person(s) choose their own pathways and develop broader skills – like taking good photos and videos and posting small bandwidth images and video; making videos and slide shows of their photos, backing them up etc etc
In this idea, we could look at the role some of the young people at Boarding school could play. More on that later.
4. The Online footprint
Establishing an online footprint about the community is a first step I think, probably by using social media. I think this is doable, lots of examples and people to help and it works as a promotional tool – probably better than websites these days.  – certainly cheaper and it is able to be managed without technical folks in charge of the publishing process, like many web sites. I think the notion of a community news channel via a combination of social media is all positive.
The online footprint idea provides some connection for the kids at Boarding school to connect back home.  It provides a way to promote, to diarise events and activities and gradually build up a story of how they are going. It will also invite people to connect with them, including the kids about to come on school camps, and their parents.
It can be quite a sophisticated project and result if done well, maintained and supported.
It would also promote discussion about what their online presence should say, who can write online etc etc. The learning from the talk would be significant as a basis for future development.  
I guess the key is not to plan too far ahead but plan a get started, who would be involved and how to support them.
I’ll write more about the school connection thing later. The tide is turning – have to go.

Sunday at Chilli  

I wrote you the most beautiful piece last night but the silly ipad lost it because we were not connected and I must have tried to save it to one drive. This edition of my blurg  will not be as beautiful.
I have been promising to continue to share some ideas for M. She talked about wanting to connect more with schools and in particular her daughter/granddaughters school. I am not sure what is useful from the following story, but it may at least spark a direction for your thoughts.
A few years ago, at Lockhart River ironically, (near there tonight and working there atm), I began a project called Reach In – Reach Out which was about connecting kids at Boarding schools with their families back in the community. It became a complex project of many parts with many benefits and was duplicated across Cape York and across multiple boarding schools. It was an amazing project for its time because Internet access in schools was still in its infancy. It began by using a small fund from the Indigenous Education and Training Alliance  to buy Lockhart school and two boarding schools a  camera, modem and a loud speaker phone and a modem account from telstra – we did this at 128-512K……  I also bought some programmer time.
David Potter and I designed and built one of the first read write web sites in the country, certainly the first in education. We designed some really nifty tools for kids to write directly to the web ( well before the Drupal sites you see today and facebook).  After the first version of the site, we duplicated the idea for other projects – which funded the development for Lockhart – involving Lindy and  Janine Bowes, every teacher professional association in Aust, etc  That design eventually become the learning place when David built it for EQ. ….. I have been around too long, but back to the track.
The Reach In- Reach Out project had a number of parts to it which may be useful spring boards for M. It involved kids in year 7 and 8 mainly.
The project was about reducing homesickness, so kids might stick it out at school and was designed to raise the status of community kids at their boarding school. It also allowed kids from communities to share and swap stories about their community in an active and visual way. Suddenly it was cool to be an Indigenous kid from a community. The schools loved it because it engaged kids, and allowed the school to contextualise curriculum around where the kids had come from, places their teachers knew nothing about in reality.  
First we provided the chance for children to speak to their parents from Boarding school. We used online photo galleries  so parents could see what their kids looked like on a given day, used the loud speaker phone to convey voice and the teacher and local organiser used chat in the background to make the event happen. Often the kids or the parents would just grab the phone, and take it away for a private conversation and then we could use web chat and show photos to the remaining audience.
Secondly, we ran a project, Lindy largely invented called Travel Buddies. The travelling bears or mascots would travel from a community to Boarding school on behalf of year 7, to find out what it was like at Boarding school. The bear would carry a backpack with a pair of shoes in it (quite hard to get kids to wear shoes at school or even take any with them), a camera, a paper diary, a number of letters (including from the mayor and elders telling him how he was expected to behave and what high hopes people had for him etc). He often carried letters from family to the kids in the year 8 at the boarding school and gifts, community newsletters etc.
Because a bear can’t really write for himself,  children in year 7 would have to write for him, starting off his diary telling stories about getting ready to go away to school.  They could collect photos of the community, interview elders and generally do all his writing tasks for him. The bear would go home with a different child every night to get messages to take to school.
Once the bear was posted to school,  he would go with various boarders to gather stories of his adventures, what happens at school etc.   
Some stories were published online and travel buddies had online photo galleries and an online diary  to share with the kids at home. It was all about telling as rich a story as possible with as much imagery as possible, with the technology we had to invent to do the job.
I just found a conference presentation about this project ( acec keynote) that I will send you. It describes the other complexities of the project including the notion of a virtual field trip. Link to conf paper.
This is not the usual model of diarising a field trip ( which is good to do anyway)  but rather it is about kids in the Boarding schools or cities, requesting that the community schools do a field trip for them gathering data, because it was not possible to visit. You start with a good question, design a field trip to gather data and the remote school does the trip for you. Neat hey?
The whole idea of the community reaching out and the school reaching in may be helpful.
I reckon there are some possibilities for M in helping kids get ready for the school camps but then contributing to the digitising of wisdom and experience while they are on site at Shiptons. The travel buddy story shows you that you can increase the status of the community in the school with a telecommunications project (probably called an eproject now).  I think that the more connections there are with Shiptons pre and post trip, the richer the experience and relationship.
I think the Virtual field trip model has some value, especially if we can nurture some local Shiptons folks to do the field trips that others design….
Another thought is to have a look at the way we built the Sea Country activities for communities a couple of years ago. I reckon writing up activities for things to do while at Shiptons might come from this model - a modified Rich Task style. Have a look at this sample.
Anyway, sorry I lost the elegant reply but happy to talk through the ideas with you.


Just had to tell you

It is Easter Saturday and we are 100K or so down into the Tanami Desert travelling from Lajamanu to Tanami Downs. We are camped by a waterhole oasis in the desert which looks surprisingly green and alive after recent rains. We are camped under a gum tree filled with nesting wild budgies and being treated to birds feeding their young and a couple of young chicks learning to fly. It’s cool, hardly any flies and perfect.  The camp oven has a roast sizzling away. We were given the tip by Mick the grader driver 100 K back, who made us a camp site last night and told us about this one – his million dollar spot. He was not wrong.
Onto business.
I have not written any reflections yet and not collected data at every community as I thought I might. It took a while to have something to say, and probably a break from the endless report writing and eventful journeys, before things bubbled to the surface.  They are linked ideas, so developing them into an order, has been quite difficult.  This is a blog rather than a coherent academic piece, so I am leaving in the repetitious arguments and not really sorting things neatly. I repeated linkages from any idea where they are significant, rather than strive to restructure them into a serious product for a broad audience. It’s all for just you Glen.
We have installed the Internet at 10 places so far, and travelled over 5000km making it about half way on our journey. Our installation and training process is nothing like we imagined, even with our experience of visiting NT communities before and knowing all the outstations in the Gulf and Cape York. Such is the diversity and difference in Indigenous lifestyles and locations and families. It is even not the same in each place we visit in one area.  (More on this later).
I am not sure how to answer your questions so I am starting with recording my reflections to see which way they go. I am conscious you are keen to know what people know, and learn and how they learn plus the broader impact of connectivity.
What learning is going on?
As a mechanism of both education and development – how can this project/participation/practice inform future policies and planning within communities?
Community Led inquiries - Learning from/Learning with/ Informed by.
Some big ideas stand out.
1.       The rise of connected women
Firstly, the difference in digital literacy knowledge, experience and wisdom between men and women in family groups we met is vast. It seems like there is a new sense of knowledge (and thus influence) in families and it revolves around digital literacy and connectedness. The women own Internet-capable devices and know how to use them, well and powerfully. For some, it is new mode of entertainment, social connection and a way of helping children learn (1) and be amused. For others, it is a way to do personal and family business – online banking, email, Centrelink business and interactions with Government, commerce and business. They play games, shop, look up information, watch u-tube, download music, chat with others, swap photos and do Facebook and Twitter - they do whatever any connected person in a city would do, but they are in these beautiful isolated places.
(1)    We only heard examples from young mums and grandmothers of using online games to teach simple concepts with very young children. (Write reflection on conversation with pre-learning coordinator at Lamanju).
Over the years of working in remote communities, we have found only casual interest in using IT in a leisure context. (We can talk about why if you need). Using personal photos and videos (see our previous writing about models for training and subject matter of such training), resulted in huge and sustained interest by people we worked with. It is one which hooked young women in particular, but did entice some older women. The subject matter was almost always family and community members, something we find less so in urban, Caucasian community situations.
Adding connectivity to the IT mix has had a dramatic impact. In the same way they were first adopters of mobile phones and texting, women have embraced Internet connectivity, primarily for its social connectedness, conversations and media sharing, especially those young mums with time on their hands. At first, it duplicated the cards-circle chatter, but now is a mainstream communication channel within and beyond each community or family. The Internet has enriched communication because of its media content and capacity for people to self-publish, have instant results and an instant and continuous feedback loop. The visual message systems of Facebook (both public and private), Diva Chat and Twitter (less so) have begun to co-exist with texting, especially where Internet access is available. 
Along the way, the women have developed specialised knowledge necessary for the communication they seek. They are highly knowledgeable and highly skilled at downloading apps, setting up options, manipulating media, using multiple apps to achieve their IT goals (eg taking a photo, enhancing it, publishing it online, adding text and sharing it). They can work complex menu systems, set up devices, seek out and connect to Wi-Fi networks and generally master devices. They achieve this quickly, as young people do, by playing, practicing, getting tips from others, sharing cool ideas and apps and skills. They have become device owners, seeking to own smart phones and tablets as a priority on restricted budgets and through difficult supply. (Often not sold in local communities, but increasingly sold in nearby town– not always at good prices).  They are also immersed in the technical language and use it competently and well, when explaining to others or simply participating in the digital culture, and certainly with us. What astounded us was the confidence in their knowledge and use, something we had not seen before with computer training workshops.
In the families we met, the men have been left behind in both ownership of connectable devices and in their knowledge and skills. The men fell into two camps: those who were quite literate and strong community leaders and those who were probably neither. Even so, men typically owned non-smart phones, if they had one at all. (Young literate men under 30 were the big exception to this. They were smart, switched on and very connected and capable young men.) The outstation men seemed to defer to the women to look up information, do the banking, buy things, keep Centrelink paperwork in order and communicate. They talked about not being IT literate, and we observed that they did not have a grasp on the language and concepts of the online culture or the technology, as did the women, and so could not participate in conversations with is as the women did. There was a subtle shift in the power base and a shift in the digital leadership of families, a highly noticeable trait to observe even in the short interactions we had. We also observed this was not taken advantage of by the women. The women we met helped others connect, including their men, assisted people to do online banking and other significant actions, but they communicated continuously online ignoring that the men hardly do. It looked like that you needed to be connected to participate in the everyday conversations these young people had and they pretty well ignored others who were not connected. There was a new mob.
2.       Young people.
We have observed that young people of school age were quite ICT literate, at least in the context of family Internet connectivity, Wi-Fi connected devices and cyber safety issues. We were able to converse with them using technical language and we assumed some concept development, which seemed to be well understood in the brief interactions we had. We could give young children our tablets and they were able to use them without out help or with small amounts of help.  Their general knowledge of swipe devices seemed high, even for children under 5. If their parents/grandparents owned one, they seemed to be able to use it.
We did not have much interaction to date with school age children because they were either at school or because there were no schools in the outstations, children were with family in the larger towns. As the Easter breaks approached, we began to meet young children on some of the outstations.
At Hatches Creek, we turned on the Internet and a grandmother in her late 50’s instantly whipped out an iPad to test our connection. Her two young grandchildren knew about the device and began to try and “steal” it from Grandmother when she was not looking. They knew what it was and were regular users of such devices.
At Putulki, a young man with his grandfather and uncle talked about his Internet use at school. He did not own an Internet capable device himself. He talked about cyber safety knowledge he had and what had been discussed at school. We would rate his general awareness of issues as high. He watched out cyber safety video. His grandfather and he, had a conversation about the video in home language.  The elders of the family use “teachable moments” to mentor young people, even as spectators in a digital culture.
All the Young people (say people between 18 and 30) we have met so far were Internet-capable device owners and highly literate in their use. Many had more than one device, some as many as 3. Because of our work, we are generally only meeting the young people who want to use the new Internet connection, so our sample is skewed. Of those young people their level of knowledge is exceptionally high and probably much higher than ours in terms of knowledge of apps that appeal to young people, online games, and utilities for the devices and general online culture knowledge. They are power users and are valued and respected in their families for their knowledge and skills. The family members referred them to us, often, deferring to their expertise. They were relied upon by the families for technical help and these young people were taking leadership in the family units for helping others.
These young people wanted Internet connectivity on outstations and it was the hope of the elders of the families, that Internet connectivity would attract them back to country, attract them more often and help them stay longer. All the young people we met were not permanently living on an outstation. They were visitors and short stay residents. They lived in the nearby communities where they was power, connectivity and their social circles; and their work/school.
3.       Level of general knowledge and skills
The Internet is pervasive enough, even in very remote outstations, that people have a general awareness of all aspects of Internet use we talked through. Non-users had knowledge and quite detailed knowledge. They had watched others, had family members do Internet tasks for them, seen the Internet used in businesses and Government agencies in their communities, and seen a great deal about the Internet by watching television and videos. Non-users knowledge of cyber safety issues and solutions was also strong, because of the interactions of others on the Internet, media coverage of issues and Television. The broadcast messages about cyber safety are significant and often enough for the main ideas to become common knowledge, even out in quite remote areas. There has also been quite a deal of effective and wide spread online safety  message programs in the NT; thus the multitude of message systems has provided a significant awareness level in the general community. Some detail may be missing, of the latest scams say, but people generally had accepted the key cyber safety messages.
4.       The difference of access
We have seen in the past that Internet access leads to an increase in device ownership. We have seen this during this trip too.  We visited an outstation near the Indigenous community of Epenarra. The people there told us that there was publically available Internet in Epenarra and “everyone” had mini tablets; mostly IPad minis and Samsung minis. There was not as much mobile phone ownership, as Epenara did not have mobile access and people did not go into town (Tennant Creek) much. The “everyone” seemed to be mainly the women. These women were quite powerful users and had learned much about their devices and the Internet apps and services they used from each other. So for the families in Epenarra, having Internet access in their outstation meant they “were not missing out”, keep up with “everybody”, could continue to play multiplayer games and do social networking. The Internet access is now becoming a security blanket in outstations and communities, just like it for us really. We camp some places because we have Internet access. So do the remote Indigenous people who have become connected.
Portable devices like smart phones and tablets have accelerated device ownership. It is difficult in community and outstation houses to have a space for a computer or laptop. It’s crowded, often with little furniture and more often there is no power or suitable lockable storage to keep a large device clean and safe. Personal portable devices can be kept in pockets and bags and don’t have to be shared. They are relatively cheap and the cost of operating them is low for many. You can charge them easily, even in your car. This all points to “It’s easier now to have an Internet connected device than it ever has been”. In other words the logistics and context of living in an Indigenous community is no longer a barrier to device ownership and maintenance, as it once was. Also portable devices are common place, a pathway paved by the mobile phone uptake in remote areas as soon as the cell network was installed. 
This is complemented by cheaper more accessible mobile phone plans – prepaid is the often only way Indigenous people can have a phone, as many do not have credit cards; and bundling some Internet access onto the phone card, provides the means to connect to the Next G network where it is available. In many ways this is no different to changes in users and user behaviour in urban areas, but in the bush where access was never and is never assumed, the factors creating access stand out more prominently as milestones to connectivity.
We have not noticed much public Wi-Fi access in major towns like Tennant Creek – in fact the reverse. What is available is directed at tourists – with costs of up to -$5 an hour inside a shop or café. Using Desktops, unfamiliar devices for most Indigenous people. Likewise libraries offer some access via desktop machines but it is not the Wi-Fi people want to have for their own devices under trees, and in parks and public areas. Interestingly some small communities like Epenarra through councils, libraries or other project-based funding, have established Wi-Fi. It is amazing what a difference public Wi-Fi this makes. Internet access is becoming an important part of the quality of life here, as it already does in cities.
We think ownership and access is pivotal to development of digital literacy by remote Indigenous people, whether they live in major towns, remote Indigenous communities or outstations. It sounds like common sense, and it is, but I am not confident sconfident such an assumption unpins public policy on telecommunications provision in the bush/desert.    (two refs here when  I have more access)
Wrapped amongst the access to services arguments, are factors relating to where people live most of the time and some of the time.  Of the families we have visited to date, there was only a couple of people in a few of the family groups who lived somewhat permanently at their outstation and they were older members. (Outstations are generally owned by one extended family, in contrast to an Indigenous community where many family groups might be living because of the services available namely a school, a shop, a fuel supply and Centrelink/medical/other Government services. Hence the distinctions throughout this blog). People with school age children are required to live near school (lest their Centrelink and other services would be cut). People of workable age, not caring for children are required to meet Centrelink personnel in order to receive payments, and so people tend to live mostly in communities and towns. People visit outstations for extended periods of time, especially outstations which are within a day’s drive of their home. Some outstations run considerable businesses and these are more often occupied by someone all the time, but not necessarily the same people. Access to the outstation in seasonal weather also plays a part of who lives there and for how long.
When people live in a town or community, they often have next G phone access, thus creating mobile phone ownership and use as a normal part of contemporary life. Increasingly people have Internet capable devices and thus Internet use is becoming normal. Until this Indigenous Telecommunications program and some similar projects, Internet access was not possible on most outstations. The drift to towns is advantageous. Because of easy and affordable access, there are enough family members living in town, that there is a sufficient community knowledge to draw on to get connected and get started with use or continue to use the devices as you normally would.   Internet access for some people, especially those who prefer to live in Outstations and who may not have had ownership before, includes access to expertise and help. 
5.        The impact of literacy
Our anecdotal observations are that literacy is a major factor in Internet use and device ownership. Obviously highly literate family members were users, were highly digitally literate and could manipulate their devices for a range of purposes. Those with less literacy skills, used devices for a narrower range of functions and with more help. These folks sought help from others rather than be the dispensers of help. The increasingly complex nature of phones and devices (for illiterate folks) does mean that literacy at some point becomes a barrier. It may be that device use improves literacy to the point of becoming functional with the device for social purposes at least. 
The literate people were more likely to be engaged in work and enterprises and had more confidence and ingenuity. This is not a new idea and there will be many studies to fill in these gaps I – happy reading Glen, It was quite a stark observation to us that the gap between literacy/digital literacy levels seemed dramatic. Those with digital literacy were able to do more things, be happier and be able to participate in the growing digital connectivity. Literacy is a part of this and key to it. I think this gap and impact of illiteracy is increasing in those “typical” folks we saw. The literate rich are getting richer….etc. Maybe there is something to be investigated around whether technology and the mobile devices which dominate the technology out here, are exaggerating the differences. It might be said that before technology and connectivity, illiteracy was not so uncomfortable in outstation life, and now it may be, especially for men and boys.
Those people who worked and/or ran community groups and organisations are necessarily more IT literate than those who don’t. Similarly there was a correlation between the large enterprises on some outstations and the level of digital literacy in a family. In order to work or run a business, you need some family if not all involved family to be highly literate and digitally literate- to access funding, to report, to engage in contractual work and to participate in the workforce. These people really want Internet access on outstations because it enables them to work, run businesses and have initiative. They can be in tune with grant and other opportunities even in the remotest places, rather than relying on being back in town for information.  They can communicate continuously, an essential aspect of modern commerce.
At Burudu, the family runs a very large cattle concern and have been highly successful at tapping into grant and project opportunities to establish a modern, well-resourced outstation, as a comfortable place to live while working the property. Some of the family are working in town as teachers and community project managers; others work away in mines and others work as salaried staff in the local council. They are multiple device owners, especially the women – one lady had 4 devices on her back veranda sitting on the table when we visited. For them Internet connectivity on the outstation is essential to the growth of the business. They want to retire permanently to the station and establish tourism businesses on the site of an old stock route and station store. Seating up a web presence is part of that plan.
They are a perfect example of how Internet connectivity on outstations will improve family, social and business life.