Published in the Journal of Rural and Community Development, Vol. 7, No. 1 (2012)
Like most of the jurisdictions highlighted in this edition, the Northern Territory of Australia has a large Indigenous population who live in small communities isolated from major service centres and urban areas. A digital divide has long existed for residents there but with the rollout of the Internet enabled “Next G” mobile phone network from 2006, along with other technology infrastructure upgrades, residents are going through a rapid ‘catch up’ in personal technology ownership and use. The new network allows for both reliable communications with the outside world as well as broadband access to the Internet. Studies elsewhere highlight potential for these gateways into the global world to bring about changed aspirations and behaviours in relation to life choices for education, employment and where to live, particularly amongst young people. In this study we explore the early outcomes in relation to these themes from the uptake and use of information communication technologies by residents of three remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory of Australia. The results suggest that technology, particularly the mobile phone, is already changing people’s lives, bringing with it opportunities and possibly negative consequences. The research demonstrates the value of observing and commentating on the process of technology adoption as a lens for re-considering how we might perceive Indigenous disadvantage and its turnaround.
Keywords: Information communication technologies, Indigenous migration, Indigenous communities, Northern Territory, Indigenous demography