Mapping the Digital Gap Stakeholder Update Presentation
26 August 2022

Dr Daniel Featherstone, RMIT
Dr Lyndon Ormond-Parker, RMIT
Dr Indigo Holcombe-James, RMIT
Lauren Ganley, Head of First Nations Strategy & Engagement, Telstra
Watch the recording
Duration: 1:00:17


Daniel Featherstone
So my name’s Daniel Featherstone. I’m a senior research fellow at RMIT University and part of the Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society. And we’re joined today by my colleagues, Dr  Lyndon Ormond-Parker and Dr Indigo Holcombe-James, and Lauren Ganley, who’s the First Nations advocate at Telstra, who’s going to do a little intro as well at the beginning.

So, the project that we’re talking about today for those of you who haven’t been on a previous update, I think this is our second or third, is called Mapping the Digital Gap. It’s a project being undertaken through the Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society over four years, and we’re visiting 10-12 communities around the country, looking at levels of digital inclusion over time, as well as media use in remote communities

We’re going to give you a bit of an update on our first round of research today, which is we’ve been to 10 communities this year. Hopefully you would have seen an info pack that we distributed out with the invitation that gives a little bit of that background information about the communities that we’ve visited. If you haven’t got that, we can share that with you later, but it was with the last invitation that went out on Friday.

I just need to give an apology. The Centre of Excellence that we’re part of, the director, Julian Thomas, who many of you will know heads up the Australian Digital Inclusion Index and was a lead in getting this project underway with Telstra unfortunately isn’t able to be here with us today. So, he sends his apologies.

Also, before we start, I’d just like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners on the unceded land on which I live and work in Castlemaine, Victoria, the Dja Dja Wurrung people and pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. I also want to acknowledge all First Nations people on the call here today. And we’ll just say that the project that we’re working on builds upon effective modes of communication that have been going on around this country for tens of thousands of years and we continue to learn and try to understand how to how to learn from those modes of communication as we go forward with this project.

So I’ll just start with this, with sharing my slides, hopefully this is all going to work properly. So that’s all clear. Sorry, we’re still got a few people just coming in, so I’m just holding a sec before we get started. So today, yeah, we’re going to give, as I said, a brief overview of the summary of the findings from this first year of research. But before we do that, I’m just going to hand over to Lauren Ganley from Telstra to provide a bit of an overview of Telstra’s work in the digital inclusion space and particularly they’ve recently released their new Reconciliation Action Plan, so we thank Telstra for their funding support for this project and I’d like to just hand over to Lauren to give a bit of an intro.

I’ll stop sharing to do that, Lauren.

Lauren Ganley
Thanks, Daniel, and hi everyone. Uh yes, as Daniel said, we launched our new Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan last month, and that was following the revoking of the RAP in March of last year. So we’ve taken our time to consult wide and far on the new RAP and it’s – it is online. You know, you have a look at that and you’ll see that there’s seven commitments in there around investment and more digital literacy.

But this research that the team’s doing is vitally important to us and you know, not only does it form part of our suite of digital inclusion programs, but importantly it informs us. And through its independence, the voice of the community and the barriers that the community face that you all know so well.

So part of my role at Telstra is to advocate for First Nations customers and communities and it’s a new role that the CEO is invested in, the old CEO who leaves next week and the new CEO, Vicky Brady, who comes in from the 1st of September.

So what’s great about the research at the team is doing is that it helps me to strongly advocate and argue for more focus on more connectivity, with the bandwidth it needs. And on increasing digital ability and of course looking at affordability especially for our prepaid services.

So I really want to thank the team, Julian, Daniel, Lyndon, Indigo and Leah, for the work you’ve done so far and for our strong partnership. You know what you’re doing is so valuable and as we all know, it’s desperately needed data for all of us, you know, so that we can go forth and advocate.

So – I just want to acknowledge I saw my colleague Robert Morcillo on screen. Hi, Robert.

So yeah, thank you, everyone, and thanks Daniel.

Lyndon Ormond-Parker
Thanks Daniel. And hi, I’m Lyndon Ormond-Parker and Daniel will share the screen again, so I’ll just quickly do a brief overview of the project. So many of you will know it’s a four-year longitudinal study of digital inclusion and media use in remote First Nations communities across Australia and the research project aims to generate a detailed account of the distribution of digital inclusion and the uses of digital services including news and media services across 10-12 First Nations communities. This first round we’ve completed 10 remote First Nations communities in the first year, and so the study is also about the way people access the Internet as well as their phone use, looking at affordability, the digital skills that people have, as well as the relevant media and news services and information services online that people are accessing.

So we selected 12 remote and regional communities based on geographical spread with a mix of community size, remoteness, services and upcoming changes to digital access in some of the remote communities. So we plan to do three site visits. So we’ve completed the first site visit and we’ll be doing two more, one in 2023 and one in 2024.

And so we undertake the research with a Community participatory model where we engage community-based researchers that assist in conducting the surveys and assist Daniel with some of the interviews that we’re conducting with service providers in each community. So we’ve set up our local partnerships and I see several people are online at the moment. And of course, Dennis, who we worked with at Yuelamu, welcome. We also support the development of local digital inclusion plans for each community, which is really specific to them and based on the research that outcomes that we’ve identified through the interviews and surveys. And so we’re also looking at informing national and state policies and programs to address barriers, including tracking the digital gap to inform the Closing the Gap target strategy #17 as well as industry initiatives.

So this is the research sites that we are visiting. So Wilcannia was our first site, in Western NSW and I think Daniel, you can just pop on to the next one there. And Wujal Wujal, the beautiful Township there and Erub Island, one of the favourite sites, and it was Lala on the front cover, which with her using the mobile out on the boat which she’ll be on some of our footers into the future. She’s given permission. We also then went to Tennant Creek in the town camps and then travelled down to Yuelamu and also Daniel conducted some interviews in Yuendamu, just 50km down the road.

We then traveled to the NT, to Elcho Island, or Galiwin’ku. And then we travel from Galiwin’ku out to the remote community of Gangan, which is an outstation about 3 hours drive south of Yirrkala. From there, we went over to – oh well, Daniel actually went to – Oh, we went to Kalumburu, in far north WA and of course, we partnered with Indigenous community based organizations at every site. And then the other one was. Lombadina, just north of Broome, the beautiful township there, which now has a sealed road all the way up, I am told, which was made for easier access to that community. Then came across and went to Wadeye, formerly known as Port Keats in the NT. So we’ve just really returned from Wadeye in the last two weeks and that was a very successful visit with I think 72 or 73 surveys that were conducted there in the township and along with a lot of service providers.

So I’ll now I think just quickly talk about the methodology, which is the next slide, Daniel.

So the methodology is informed by the AIATSIS ethics for research with Aboriginal Torres Dayanara communities, the NHS guidelines, as well as the principles of data, indigenous data sovereignty. So we’re conducting qualitative surveys adapted from the ADII survey to track remote digital inclusion, sorry, quantitative. And then we’ve also done the qualitative research which is talking to service providers across all sites.

And really key to the success of the first year-round is working with the community based organisations which host us and also provide support through providing two Indigenous Co-researcher, which have been very valuable, particularly in many communities where English is a second or third language. And so, we have great assistance with interpretation services onsite – at all of these sites, which has been absolutely fantastic.

I’ll think I’ll hand over to Daniel, just to quickly talk about some of the research findings. Thanks everyone.

Daniel Featherstone
You thanks so much, Lyndon. And yeah, we’ve had such an incredible response in this first round, particularly due to working with local organisations as those research partners and using community co-researchers. So, that model has really worked and meant that we’ve had great engagement in all of the sites that we’ve been to. So as Lyndon said, we’ve been to 10 sites. What we’re going to do is talk through some of the outcomes at an initial level. We certainly haven’t had time to process all of the data yet.

We’ve done 530 surveys to date and 140 interviews. So, there’s quite a bit of work now to process all of that information. And at the end of the presentation, I’ll explain the reporting processes that will be going through.

But yeah, the initial research findings showed that digital inclusion levels vary greatly in remote communities and homelands depending on the size of the community, the distance from regional centres, the types of communication services that are available, geographic and climatic factors and socioeconomic and cultural factors, but also where there are local initiatives – like setting up Wi-Fi or public access facilities – and that local training and support, which can make a real difference to the levels of people’s engagement.

I’m going to speak briefly around the axis, and as I talked about – we are looking not just at telecommunications access, but also media access. So, we’ll talk to both of those. But in the telecommunications space, as probably many of you will be aware, prepaid mobile is the primary means of Internet and phone access where it’s available. And so that’s to the, you know, about 86% of the people that we surveyed have or share a mobile phone. About 90 percent of those are prepaid and 91% are using smartphones.

There’s very few households who have home Internet or phones. Mostly these are in agencies or shared facilities. About 24% have said they have some sort of home Internet access. We have to drill down on that a bit to find out what type that is. And about 11% said they had home phones.

The 4G is primarily there now, in most of the larger communities that we visited. There was only two of the sites that didn’t have 4G access. That is you’ll, Anu and Gangan communities, both which are smaller sites.

And both have some level of Wi-Fi access, but both of those do have 4G telephones coming to the site. And there was a lot of discussion about what that would – how that would impact on the community, both in positive and negative ways. So, we’ll be able to talk to that maybe in the Q&A a little bit.

There was a number of the sites that we went to that talked about regular and prolonged outages of their 4G, or all of the Internet to the Community, and the significant impact that that had had, particularly where people weren’t able to access if POS or ATM and stores weren’t able to open and provide sales. And they were having to come up with work-arounds for that situation.

But yeah, in some places those outages were up to 10 or 11 days and that very much impacted on all the service delivery in the communities.

There’s pretty low household uptake of NBN sky muster. It tends to be more through Wi-Fi access, but about 10% of households said they have an NBN service. That is more so the case insights where there’s no 4G or on the outskirts of where there is 4G axis and where it’s pretty low.

The low level of availability – another 6% of household said they had a DSL or fixed wireless connections. Public phones were still used in this, you know, insights, but most people said they didn’t use the public phone where there was 4G. So about 20% of people said they used the public phone.

There’s very limited availability to do online schooling or work from home, or access services during COVID as we’ve talked about previously and a fair bit of concern about the likely impact of the switch off of 3G when that comes in March 2024.

In terms of Wi-Fi access, that’s certainly a key way that people are able to access services, and many of the communities are providing some level of Wi-Fi – ideally free Wi-Fi – to access Centrelink and other services. But that’s still a mixed response in most of these communities.

The Wi-Fi, where it was available, was being well utilized. In fact, as I describe in most of these things, it’s being loved to death as the 4G is being loved to death and is, you know, we people are just using it to where it’s so congested that it really slows down the whole network.

The limitations on Wi-Fi, of course, are those speeds. The data limits available, particularly when you’re sharing out to a large number of people’s line of sight and voucher costs, where there are voucher systems in place. But we will hopefully get a chance to talk in later sessions about the use of Wi-Fi mesh as a community-wide service, and that’s starting to get some uptake. In terms of ICT access, there’s a very high turnover of mobile phones. People change their numbers quite a lot and you know, we’ll come back to it, but SIM activation and you know, some of the use of online services are quite challenging for people.

There’s very limited access to computers printers and IT support in most of the communities. I would suggest even less so than there was a decade ago and so yeah, those learning spaces are becoming either used for different purposes or have you know, more constrained in their use.

Media access of Vast TV is not working in a majority of households. So, we found that about 40% of households reported being able to watch TV via the vast TV. And so that’s a fairly significant issue because it’s pushing a lot of the use of media services onto the 4G or Internet and can and leading to congestion.

About 20% of households have local broadcasting and 33% of people said they’re streaming via their phone to get media.

First Nations Radio is a primary service in many of these communities. However, there is fairly low take up of home radio. People mostly listen in the car when they do listen to the radio, so about 53%, so they listen in the car and ABC radio is not available in many of these communities. And that’s partly to do with the lack of funding for maintenance of the ABC Radio services.

There’s a limited access to news and media, and emergency information. So, Facebook and social media are a primary source of news and emergency information, but we can drill down on that further.

I’m going to hand over to Indigo to talk about affordability.

Indigo Holcombe-James
Thanks, Daniel, and thanks so much to everyone for joining us. It’s really great to see so many familiar names and faces on the call today.

So, affordability is really critical component of digital inclusion as variable as the infrastructures that Daniel’s just described are when they are in place, whether or not it’s affordable to access and use, it is another really important question. And what we’ve been seeing across the cohort of communities that we’ve worked with over the last year is that over COVID and with restrictions and lockdowns and various things like that, we’ve seen increased demand for higher data services.

Actually, by young people, and which of course raises all sorts of affordability questions, and that demand is not dropping, even though COVID restrictions have been largely reduced, we’re also saying that prepaid data is much more expensive than post-paid billed services. The GB is about $3 to $4, and this is something that’s been advocated for and discussed widely by the sector in the past.

And another thing that we think is really important to flag here is that despite changes to phone plans to avoid excessive bills or to simplify a plan – which people have flagged as barriers to moving on to such services such cheaper, better value services – we’re not seeing that shift towards post-paid plans of mobile or fixed Internet. Instead, there’s still that real reliance on prepaid at that higher cost.

At the same time, though, we’re seeing increasing digitisation of essential services. So, at which means that there’s a real user pays kind of quandary here. With health and education increasingly moving online, the costs of accessing those services are privatised, with real concerns for households and communities where that’s not always a possibility.

We’ve also found that the affordability of devices is a critical issue for many of the Community members that we’re working with, and particularly when they’re breaking down or not being able to be repaired, that rapid turnover is introducing high costs into households.

And although Daniel – as he just mentioned, a huge number of faith legacy smartphone devices – when we’re talking to older household residents, for instance, we’re hearing that a number of them are choosing to use more basic older models, non-smartphones, to reduce the family demand.

Other questions around affordability are in terms of media access and use, and limited access to the vast TV satellites is resulting in increased demand for online media and subscription services like Foxtel. And we’re also of course flagging the calls from community members, fair, affordable, prepaid data and free access to essential online services, to help resolve some of these barriers. I’ll hand over to Linden.

Lyndon Ormond-Parker
Thanks, Indigo. And I’ll quickly just talk about digital ability. So, there is improved digital ability and skills in communities, in particular around service providers and agencies. And this includes increase in telehealth, online meetings, and trainings. There are key gaps in terms of people, mainly digital ability impacting on the elderly or people over 50, people’s with disabilities, language speakers and homeland residents.

There is a high uptake of social media, including Facebook, and TikTok is becoming very popular for communicating. Sharing e-mail is not used very much at all. And people are actively posting and sharing content online. And that tends to be the younger generation.

But there are a lot of people that are actually active consumers rather than producers. There’s also an increase in demand for online streaming services in particular. There is a high uptake of YouTube in terms of viewing content. And also online gaming and some apps which are often very much data hungry, especially when people are on pay-as-you-go for their data services. There’s high demand for more training and support, and in particular, support in terms of cyber safety awareness, data management and also high demand now for support for using apps. So, as we see, people like sent government services like Centrelink and Mygov, people are still often phoning in or phoning in to do Internet banking, rather than using apps.

There are also a lot of requests for training and training in the use of mobile phone apps, services, and training works best of course, when it’s culturally appropriate and locally delivered. Especially where there are language barriers and often better in small groups – and also one-on-one. There are a lot of service providers providing support in terms of some of those online services for community members rather than them being skilled up at this particular point in time, to actively do it themselves, because of that gap in the digital ability. There’s also a demand for cultural governance in the digital space. There was feedback from elders and others suggesting that they would like more of a say in the digital space and would like to get an understanding of how young people are using social media.

There’s also a growing demand for digital resources, including for media, music, language and cultural activities and archiving online.

So I’ll now hand over to Daniel. Thanks, Daniel. To talk about service delivery.

Daniel Featherstone
Yeah. Thanks. And so, a big part of what we’re doing in community is also talking to the service providers around the community, the local school, the police, the clinic, the Shire, and obviously the partner organisations that we’re working with, and really trying to get a picture of the whole way that people are using communications around the community. So, one of the – and invariably where there is Internet issues where it’s congested and the Internet connectivity is a problem in the community that has a significant impact on all of those service providers. So, there’s a real mixed story around the use of telehealth. Some places it’s being used quite a lot because the connectivity to the clinic is quite good. In other places, it’s simply not working at all and people attending to use like FaceTime on their phone, more so than some.

Some sites have very nice camera equipment on the walls, but they’re not able to use it because of that connectivity issue. The lack of access to telehealth is increasingly becoming more of a risk to patients, but it’s adding costs in terms of the number of flying doctor flights and travel for patients to go in and out for check-ups, or triage, and that triage can save lives if it can be done quickly via telehealth.

Zoom or teams is becoming a normal part of work for all organisations. Obviously, everyone talks to the reduced time and travel and the ability to connect and sort out issues fairly quickly, as well as being used for professional development. But some schools talked about having to get the professional development seminars sent out on a flash drive, or having to find, you know, access it later because the connectivity was so poor.

Online services were, you know, from a community perspective, people described that many of them are not user friendly, that they don’t work so well on mobiles. People are primarily using mobiles rather than computers and that some require forms that if you are filling out a form and get halfway through and it drops out, you’ve got to start again and do all of that again. So, definitely some work needed to be done in that online service design.

Some of the assumptions in designing services are that people have access to all of their ID. They use an e-mail address. That’s fairly uncommon for people, and often people set up an e-mail address but forget their passwords because they don’t use it regularly, and so forth. Street addresses in many communities that don’t have Street addresses, and that can be an issue and that people change their phone number quite regularly. We find, you know, some people had four or more phone numbers per year. And that that turnover becomes a real problem if you’re using two stage authentication or something of that nature.

So, these become real obstacles for people using services. The Centrelink reporting, we heard a lot about this. That people had either had demerits or payments had been ceased because they couldn’t access, they couldn’t get online or make calls, particularly during congestion periods and COVID, and that, you know, that was a real issue for people. That connectivity actually means that they may go without getting payments.

Cloud based systems are being used across all of the service providers now, but again, you know, some of the clinics that we spoke to said that they’re having to duplicate those systems by filling out records on paper and then uploading them at night when they’re connectivity is better. When you know, there’s less congestion. Or having to just keep duplicate systems because they just couldn’t trust that they were going to be able to access Cloud-based services when they needed them.

And emergency services. There’s a real mix situation now of people, you know, relying much more heavily on the 4G networks. However, that doesn’t cover when they’re out of community. There’s less reliance now on the old technologies of UHF and HF radio, and satellite radio. Satellite phones are still being used quite a lot, but yeah. It’s a real mixed story now, around how emergency communications are being used as the site is some use of UHF and VHF. But you know, that seems to be ad hoc with some of the range of programs and schools and others using it. But it’s not been community-wide.

Some agencies are relying – we heard this from NCRIS, in particular – relying on clients having phone access to be able to provide services so they won’t go to a community unless they can contact enough clients in that community to justify a trip. And that means for a community that doesn’t have phone connectivity, they may well go without getting those services, and that’s those small communities and homelands.

And the number of schools that we talked to, either had to do the NAPLAN test offline, or they had real issues. They had dropouts in the middle of doing the NAPLAN, and that impacted on their scores. People had very low literacy with using computers or laptops for doing those online tests. So, they’re just some of the stories we’ve heard but we’ve got a lot of rich data from those interviews.

I’m going to hand over to Indigo to talk about what we’re doing in terms of writing up community reports from each of these sites that we’re going to.

Indigo Holcombe-James
Thanks, Daniel.

Yeah, the Community report. They are really a hugely important part of this project. They’re providing a detailed report on the geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic context for each of the 10 communities we’ve visited this year, as well as the availability and use of media and communications by residents and local agencies. The report works to provide community context analysis of the survey and interviews and specific quotes, as well as suggestions for how our local digital inclusion plan that responds to the data and findings that we’ve collected, could work. And these reports are provided back to each community so that they can have their research that they’ve contributed to at hand, and in a usable form for their own planning and advocacy. And Leah’s just popped the link in the chat to the most recent report from Wilcannia. So, we’ve completed the first of these, Wilcannia, and we’ll be compiling the other nine over the coming months and there will of course be updates after each annual visit, to identify changes over time.

And we wanted to share just a couple of insights that are in the Wilcannia report, but really strongly do encourage you to go and check out the full report. I think they’re a good read, and provide a bit more detail on what we’ve discussed here today. So, what we found in Wilcannia, is that there’s real reliance on mobile telephony and prepaid access as we’ve discussed. Only about 13% of survey respondents have fixed sign home telephones. And 85% of the respondents are reliant on a prepaid connection. So again, those are affordability concerns that we’ve been talking about come to the fore here.

And those affordability concerns are a big question. And 24% of respondents said that they were extremely concerned about the cost of Internet access on the daily basis within their household budget. But while they’re the four J network is the primary means of access, it’s highly congested and reliable and patchy across the community. Residents told us about having to leave their phones in particular spots within their household to get signal, or to answer the phone and to take it outside to be able to make calls.

Next slide please, Daniel. Thank you.

The other part of the reports is a real focus on the qualitative data that we collect. Those interviews that we conduct with local community residents and stakeholder agencies, and representatives. And the project really does seek to give voice to the people’s experiences of living and working in remote communities, and their communication needs and challenges, and to bring not only those experiences but that wisdom and that insight into what is needed to be done to the fore. And so, on this slide, we’ve got 2 really key quotes from Nola Wyman, from Mary my health telling us that digital exclusion really needs to be considered for poverty, and that the increasing digitalisation of healthcare systems requires serious consideration, if these already marginalized communities are not to be further disadvantaged. And then down the bottom, we’ve got Brendon Adams who is the former manager of ready in Wilcannia Arcade research partner in the community, who’s telling us that the importance of this kind of research is to really foreground the lived experiences of digital exclusion and living in these remote communities, and the impact of that on employment, social and emotional well-being.

Over to you, Daniel.

Daniel Featherstone
Yeah. Thanks, indigo. And yeah, there’s a great little video that was produced and I’m just wanting to acknowledge Leah’s fantastic work on this project as well. Leah’s in the background helping to make all these documents look beautiful and tell the story, and those videos, helping us to put those together to, you know. Share what we’re seeing on the ground.

Leah Hawkins
Thanks, Daniel. We’ll need a wrap up this session fairly quickly to allow time for the Q&A, and thanks for the shout out, Daniel.

Daniel Featherstone
Good on your Leah. So, I’ll just very quickly talk to where we’re going next. So, we’ll put out those ten community reports by the end of this year. We’ll be putting a national report together that sums up all of that qualitative work that we’ve been doing. And then we’ll also be using the survey results, the quantitative work, to put into analysis against the National Australian Digital Inclusion Index results. Now that is going to be a relaunched dashboard with the First Nations section on that, probably around April next year. So, it will allow us to be able to have that comparison of our results against national results. And people will be able to go in and interrogate that, according to the different areas of access, affordability, digital ability and via each location.

We’ll start the next round of research in February to August of next year and then a final round in the following year in 2024, and with a major report to be compiled at the end of that. In the meantime, we’ll work with communities if they’re interested on developing those digital inclusion plans and seeing how that can track over the next couple of years as well. And of course, talking with all of you about what can be done at a national level.

So I’ll wrap it up. We’ll open it up for question and answers and Leah’s been tracking to see who’s got some questions in the chat, but there’s, you can see the Facebook page and the website if you want to go and check out more information. And in the slide show there.

Leah Hawkins
Yep. So, I’ve just got one question from the chat, it’s from Keith Besgrove. With regards to telehealth, the conditions you are describing suggest potentially very high levels of miss-services to patients in need. Do you have any quantification of this?

Daniel Featherstone
We don’t have quantification at this stage, Keith. We’ve been trying to get a sense of this, from the service providers point of view, but in our surveys, we’re not actually asking questions about the use of telehealth per se.

You know, it’s a general question in the survey, but it doesn’t – we’re not able to see who’s missing out on services as a result of that. What we do know is that there’s, you know, there’s a mix of issues here and some of it – the satellite services are a result of particularly cloud cover, is one of the areas where services are breaking down. Just the data usage on telehealth means that many of the services that are available in the communities are providing the necessary data for the quality needed to do a proper telehealth consultation. And so it probably needs more of a business grade service to be able to get that quality.

But yeah, it really is a bit of a mixed story about, you know, the types of connectivity that clinics have. Was there more to that question, Keith?

Keith Besgrove
I just raised it because it’s a long standing interest of mine, and it does seem to me that until you can actually put some numbers around that issue, it’s less easy to turn this into a compelling narrative. But if you think about the closing the gap ambitions and the areas where we’re falling short, it does seem to me that some very credible quantification of that missed service and its impact on mortality would be quite useful in the debate with politicians and with the communications companies.

Daniel Featherstone
Yeah. And I know there are other projects going on that look more specifically at telehealth, but we you know, we will take that on board as we look at what questions we ask in the next round.

Leah Hawkins
Next question is from Sean Francis.

Shaun Francis
Yeah, great work, guys. I applaud you for all your efforts. So, you’re going to the data I think is going to be key in helping us address the digital health literacy issues and also facilitating remote care. I’m – by the way – I’m Sean. I’m from rural flight off service at Queensland, so this is obviously key component of our trying to deliver services to other regional parts of Queensland and the rest of Australia. I just wanted to confirm, have you’ve calculated digital inclusion indexes for these communities? So, I couldn’t see one in the Wilcannia report.

Daniel Featherstone
Now the reason we can’t calculate it, that’s at this stage it does need to have a lot of data analysis done, which we will do at the time that the national results get in.

Shaun Francis

Daniel Featherstone
That would be in the lead up to that April 2023 launch of the next round of the Australian Digital Inclusion Index results, so that that data collection is happening now for the ADII.

Shaun Francis
OK. Yeah.

Daniel Featherstone
But our results have to get sort of treated through the same analysis process. So it’ll be released then we can’t you know, we’ve got survey results, but there’s a whole lot of back end work that needs to get done. Indigo can probably speak a bit more to that.

Shaun Francis
That sounds fair. The other question I had, so the 2019 Australian Digital Inclusion Index had a specific report around Pomperaug, Far North QLD, Cape Communities. Just curious one, I guess the decision making around communities that you’re targeting and also whether there’s been follow up or intended follow up for Pomperaug, or given that there’s some of the groundwork has already been done there.

Daniel Featherstone
Yeah. So, we went through quite a process to work out which sites we could go to.

You know, put feelers out to community organisations in a number of these sites and went with where there was infrastatic community level to work with us on this project. So that’s where Joel became the sighting, Cape York that we went to rather than Pomperaug or Ellie Karan, which was the previous research site that was done in the year prior to that 2018 but you know, my states is that the Pomperaug results were quite indicative for a lot of the Cape York communities and we certainly are you know, looking at how they compare with the results that we’re getting . And they are very similar. However, you know, things obviously have changed in terms of the level of mobile access in communities now and the types of connectivity in each community vary, obviously.

But yeah, that’s one of those things that we just had to go with, where there was a research partner to work with.

Shaun Francis
Sure, thanks, and great work guys.

Leah Hawkins
Next question is from Ian Hill and this might be a question more for Telstra, but Ian asks that since expensive pay-as-you-go services are currently used by the majority of users in communities, are there any plans to introduce a scheme like the Optus donate your data scheme that allows customers to donate their excess data to people and communities that would benefit from it.

Daniel Featherstone
Right, suggestion. Not sure if Lauren’s still on the line?

Lauren Ganley
I did not. I am here. That is a great question. You know, I only had a meeting this morning with the people from the prepaid area to talk about what can we do for people that in a way, affordability is a huge issue. So, the good news is that everyone is interested in talking to me about this stuff. So, yeah, I’ll add that to my list. Thank you.

Daniel Featherstone
And we want to commend Lauren’s work at Telstra, and being the First Nations advocate and actually taking these issues, you know, having that Direct Line to management to really take these issues up. So, it’s great having someone like Lauren that we can report to and then actually see what can be done about these rather than waiting until the end of the project.

Leah Hawkins
Was there any more questions from attendees?

Daniel Featherstone
I want to thank all of the people who are online, who we’ve talked to through the process. Some obviously we’re not just talking to the communities. We’re also talking to stakeholders in all of the sites that we’re going to, as we go through Alice Springs and Darwin and Perth and so forth. We try and catch up with as many of the other First Nations organisations, peak bodies, government agencies, and the NBN and Telstra, and others who are in this space of delivering the services so that we can be working out solutions as we go, trying to identify what the issues are and where these obstacles are coming up for people, and seeing what can be done to address the issues on the run rather than, as I say, waiting until the end and then, you know, just reporting back.

This is this is the issues that we’ve seen. We want to see this as an action research project where the solutions are being workshopped and developed, and we’re actually able to see the impact of those through the period of the project.

Leah Hawkins
We have a question from Andria Durney. You ask your question, Andrea.

Andria Durney
Hi. Yes. Thanks so much for your fantastic work. It’s very exciting to see such a fantastic combination of action research and data analysis, and especially the co-researchers, is really exciting. I just had a question about the cyber safety side of things. When I’ve looked at you know, sort of current approach to try and address, that is very much reliant on an individual, say parent, or someone trying to sort this out when they might not have enough knowledge to themselves.

Speaking for myself – that would be me as well. So, have you heard of any sort of structural approaches to address this instead of just that sort of issue being placed on individuals?

Daniel Featherstone
Indigo, you were working on the Cyber safety project. Did you want to talk to that at all or?

Or Lyndon?

Indigo Holcombe-James
Yeah, the cyber–safety project was a go in 2016. I think it was, it was led by a professor, Ellie Rennie. And I can find and grab a link to that and I’ll put it in the report in the chart now.

I’m in a lot of – I think you’re right, Andria. A lot of their responses are often individualised and focused on school providers or a parents, kind of knowing where to push people towards. But I think organisations like Kayla – we’ve got Jenny McFarland on the call here – do really important work in that space.

And yeah, I’ll probably link into the chat. But Lyndon, do you have anything more up to date to kind of talk to you there?

Lyndon Ormond-Parker
No, not really. But Jenny, you might like to add a comment to that.

Daniel Featherstone
Putting you on the spot, Jenny.
You’re muted.

Lyndon Ormond-Parker
Did you want to comment? Jennifer McFarlane? Alright. And I think you’re on mute. I don’t know.

Jennifer McFarland
Look, there’s such a lot here. I put a comment about public Wi-Fi on the chat. Can I think about it?

Lyndon Ormond-Parker

Daniel Featherstone
And I think you know, one of the one of the challenges we have with the even the term cyber safety is it. So, this is so multifaceted. Now a lot of people we’re talking to in communities of being scammed, we’re getting dating scams. One lady had been hit up for $40,000 in a remote community for through a dating scam.

People are obviously having Facebook bullying and there’s you know, inappropriate content sharing. It’s so multifaceted. It’s hard to actually say there’s one way of addressing this. One of the challenges that the elders are facing is that they don’t feel that they have cultural authority in that digital space. They don’t have ways of being able to intervene or even block Internet when it’s particularly on 4G.

Jennifer McFarland
Yeah, well, they can’t block 4G like we used to find when there was public Wi-Fi. If there were fights breaking out on Facebook that we could ask the router service provider to block access to Facebook until the issues had been sorted, then people could get back on again, often the troublemakers then were targeted by other members of the community who are going. I can’t talk to my family. You know, get your act together and there were consequences. But with 4G you can’t do that. You know, you can’t. I also heard a story about what old man who chopped down the mobile tower because he was so sick of all the trouble. And there was a lot of anxiety and many remote communities when mobile services were going in because of that lack of community control. One thing with cyber safety that we found worked well in a limited sort of way was having workers go out to the community that were known in those communities. We use youth workers and to do cyber safety workshops. So, what are the issues here? You know, what’s really in this community and what do you think can be done about it? And we generated a whole bunch of resources. There’s a painting on my wall here that was done in Ellie Karang that is very nifty. It’s on the Kalos website, I think under resources, but that’s sort of site specific.

Activity and discussion and the generation of locally specific resources in local languages by local people meant that people actually looked at them and listened to them, and there were some really fun little video clips made. You know, production values weren’t great, but they were really good. They were great. Just, you know, talking about local responses. Like, when would you get night patrol involved in this?

You know, so, those sorts of things worked well, but probably in a fairly limited way. I think it’s kind of gone beyond. You know, like it just the uptake of social media, it’s sort of gone beyond what local communities can actually manage. In many ways, some things, sure, but other things, not so much.

Daniel Featherstone
Thanks, Jenny. That’s very much our experience. Although there are some fantastic resources that have been developed, but we’re not seeing much sign of those in communities.

We also have to work out where the spaces are in in Community where these conversations going to happen and where that that support and awareness can be established, and building.

Jennifer McFarland
Yeah. Look, I think that’s where the local you know that that local input is absolutely crucial because otherwise it’s like, well, you know, they’re not my mob, so they’re irrelevant. To a lot of you know, if it’s not in their language or it’s, you know, pitch that or sort of broader people don’t see it as being relevant.

Daniel Featherstone
That’s right. And I appreciate we’re coming to the end. So, unless there’s any other last questions?

Leah Hawkins
Yeah, there’s just two more questions in the meeting chat, do you think we have time to answer to go through them quickly?

Daniel Featherstone
I’m happy to stay on if people need to leave, that’s fine. But yeah, I’m happy to do a last couple of questions and then we’ll wrap it up.

Leah Hawkins
Yeah, we’ll just go through various. Will you provide some insights into those solutions that are being worked on as the Community consultations are taking place, will they form part of your community or final reports, some useful guidance for agencies to learn from?

Daniel Featherstone
Yeah. So basically, that’s a very much a part of what these digital inclusion plans are. So, if you do have a look at the Wilcannia report, you’ll see some examples of the types of local strategies that the community have suggested and what they want to work on. And you’ll see a list of recommendations for what the community may want to put into a local digital inclusion plan. We aren’t necessarily able to resource those. We would support the communities with their plans. But we’re trying to feedback what we’ve heard through the through the interviews and conversations. So, if you have a look, there’s an example there. We very much see these individual Community case studies as ways of sharing that knowledge with other communities around the country. And so, these digital inclusion plans are a part of setting up a model that can other communities can learn from and develop their own plans and hopefully build capacity at a local level. Build that empowerment around how to address the challenges that they’re seeing in their community.

So, we very much see that those and we’ll have more case studies in future presentations where we can start to see how they’re playing out.

Leah Hawkins
And Kathy also just asks, If that the issues being raised here very similar to people in the Pacific islands, and do you engage with researchers and others in the region, not just Australia?

Daniel Featherstone
Currently being part of the Centre of Excellence for automated decision making and society, we do have researchers working in the Pacific and in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world, so there is an opportunity for that dialogue and that cross learning between the different research projects around in the area. There’s also – indigos involved in another project, and as well as the digital inclusion index, and there’s the UM low income home digital inclusion project as well.

Sorry I can’t remember the full name for that one through QQ QUT in Brisbane and so yeah, we all talk to each other quite a bit and share our knowledge.

Leah Hawkins
Shall we wrap up there?


Daniel Featherstone
Looks like good time to wrap up. Thanks everyone for your interest and for coming along today. Feel free to get in touch with us if you do have more questions or if you want to find out more about the work that we’re doing so.

So look forward to we’ll have another one of these either later in the year or early next year and keep people informed as the project develops.