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Broadband policy and rural and cultural divides in Australia

  • Year: 2016
  • Author: Scott Ewing, Ellie Rennie and Julian Thomas
  • Publisher: CRC Press
  • Country: Australia

The example of Australian broadband policy touches on a central concern of digital divide debates, namely the relationship between socio-economic factors and internet adoption, which scholars and experts have long argued determine the digital divide, leading them to conclude that infrastructure provision will not, on its own, solve the problems created by unequal take-up. Here we suggest that infrastructure provision can make a significant difference if it responds to the preferences of consumers and users - understood within the local context. Australia's NBN is an instance where a national-level strategy aimed at the majority may struggle to meet the needs of those most excluded unless local factors are addressed. We use the example of broadband adoption amongst Australia's Indigenous households, where uneven patterns of adoption reflect consumer preference for mobile over satellite services that arises from the particular geography, culture and economy of remote Indigenous Australia. Although disadvantage is likely to influence the sociality of place from which these preferences arise, it is not necessarily the primary determinant of internet adoption. In the final part of the chapter we suggest how this particular instance of digital exclusion might be overcome.

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