The Importance of Broadband for Socio-Economic Development: A Perspective from Rural Australia
Keywords:Rural connectivity, National Broadband Network, socio-economic development, policy, digital divide, digital inclusion
Advanced connectivity offers rural communities prospects for socio-economic development. Despite Australia’s national broadband infrastructure plans, inferior availability and quality of rural Internet connections remain persistent issues. This article examines the impact of limited connectivity on rural socio-economic opportunities, drawing from the views of twelve citizens from the Boorowa local government area in New South Wales. The available fixed wireless and satellite connections in Boorowa are slow and unreliable, and remote regions in the municipality are still without any Internet access. Participants identified four key areas in their everyday lives that are impacted by insufficient connectivity: business development, education, emergency communication, and health. Rural citizens often already face challenges in these areas, and infrastructure advancements in urban spaces can exacerbate rural-urban disparities. Participants’ comments demonstrated apprehension that failure to improve connectivity would result in adverse long-term consequences for the municipality. This article suggests that current broadband policy frameworks require strategic adaptations to account for the socio-economic and geographic contexts of rural communities. In order to narrow Australia’s rural-urban digital divide, infrastructure developments should be prioritised in the most underserved regions.
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