Rural realities: Digital communication challenges for rural Australian local governments

Julie FREEMAN, Sora PARK

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    29 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Purpose – This article explores challenges for rural Australian local governments during the transition to high-speed broadband infrastructure. Despite the National Broadband Network’s promised ubiquitous connectivity, significant access discrepancies remain between rural and urban areas. Design/methodology/approach – Empirical findings are drawn from a full-day workshop on digital connectivity, which included participants from seven rural local governments in New South Wales, Australia. Thematic analysis of the workshop transcript was undertaken to extrapolate recurring nuances of rural digital exclusion. Findings – Rural communities face inequitable prospects for digital inclusion, and authorities confront dual issues of accommodating connected and unconnected citizens. Many areas have no or poor broadband access, and different digital engagement expectations are held by citizens and local governments. Citizens seek interactive opportunities, but rural authorities often lack the necessary resources to offer advanced participatory practices. Research limitations/implications – While this research draws from a small sample of government officials, their insights are, nonetheless, heuristically valuable in identifying connectivity issues faced in rural Australia. These issues can guide further research into other regions as well as civic experiences of digital inclusion. Practical implications – There is a need to reconceive Australia’s current policy approach to broadband. Greater rural digital inclusion may be achieved by focusing on connectivity as a public interest goal, targeting infrastructure developments to suit local contexts and implementing participatory digital government practices. Originality/value – The actions suggested would help ensure equity of digital inclusion across Australian municipal areas. Without such changes, there is a risk of rural citizens facing further marginalisation through digital exclusion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)465-479
    Number of pages15
    JournalTransforming Government
    Volume9
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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