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54 Partyline July 2013 M any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in remote communities on their traditional lands. Among other things this allows them to care for country, maintain culture and escape the problems that exist in larger towns. The isolation of living in remote communities can be reduced with good access to telecommunications services. Programs specifically targeting the telecommunications needs of Australias first peoples living in remote areas include the Telecommunications Action Plan for Remote Indigenous Communities (TAPRIC), Networking the Nation, and the Indigenous Communications Program. However, many remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to struggle with digital literacy and have only limited engagement with the digital economy.1 The Indigenous Communications Program (ICP) was introduced in 2009 and the installation phase is scheduled to terminate in June 2013. The ICP consisted of two elements, telephone and internet. Some 270 community phones were installed across Australia, almost 100 communities received public internet facilities, and over 1 Home Internet for Remote Indigenous Communities: A consumer research report by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, the Centre for Appropriate Technology and the Central Land Council, 2011. 4,000 Aboriginal people were trained in basic computer use.2 While the ICP made some important contributions to improved communications in remote Australia, there are a number of improvements that could be made to the design and delivery of future programs. For instance, more attention could be given to mobile communications. For a highly mobile population whose needs are only partly met by fixed-line services, the mobile phone is a most appropriate form of communication. Furthermore, smartphones offer access to the internet, which effectively provides two services in one. There would be benefit in a new, innovative and flexible program that considers the diversity of the remote Australian population, takes account of the need for culturally relevant and engaging training programs, and recognises the importance of mobile communications. Where there is good access to communications infrastructure and sufficient training in its use, ICT can contribute to better outcomes in employment, health and education. Michael Charlton Indigenous Policy Officer, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network 2 http://www.dbcde.gov.au/__data/ assets/pdf_file/0009/108684/ Indigenous_Communications_ Program_-_Fact_sheet_Final.pdf gEttINg WISE tO SMARt PHONES
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