Dot Com Mob have been working in partnership with Central Australia Youth Link Up Service (CAYLUS) to support computer rooms in remote Aboriginal communities since 2011.
Access to digital technologies for remote Aboriginal community and town camp residents:
supports and enables the development of digital, literacy and numeracy skills for remote Aboriginal communities.
to pursue interests and self-directed learning. Self-directed learning is particularly important for post-primary school age cohorts, as learners are able to take things at their own pace, and not be exposed to the embarrassment and “shame” of having to compete. They are able to experiment with different skills, programs and techniques without the consequences of having been deemed to fail.
facilitates communication with agencies and services not available in community
allows people to stay in touch with family in other communities. This is important for safety, as people travelling on outback roads are very vulnerable if anything goes wrong with the vehicle or someone gets sick. Family can, and do, let someone know or will go and look for people who have not turned up when expected.
Dot Com Mob and CAYLUS have a unique role in the region, as there is no other agency that provides coordination and support to keep remote Aboriginal community computer rooms functioning, replace broken or worn out equipment, and purchase ancillary equipment such as music keyboards, headphones, etc. The ancillary equipment allows people to extend the range of digital, creative and other skills they develop, and keeps people engaged with active learning and skills development.
As an increasing number of services which do not have a presence in community (such as banking) have moved to digital or on-line only access, so support for access to computers, tablets, and the internet is crucial to reduce the considerable levels of digital disadvantage experienced by remote Aboriginal community people. Lack of access to digital and on-line resources compounds the existing high levels of geographic, health, linguistic and other disadvantages already experienced by remote Aboriginal community people. Many of the families living in remote communities do not have their own computers and lack a reliable power supply, with the main device of choice being a smartphone that is shared between an average of 6 to 12 people, including children (estimate based on CAYLUS reports from remote community workers.)
Many remote communities do not have a mobile phone network, or people cannot afford to buy mobile data, so the way they access on-line resources is at the community public wifi hotspot and computer room. There are 22 remote Aboriginal communities, 8 town camp and 2 other sites in the regional centre of Alice Springs, and 15 Purple House remote community dialysis centres that have benefited from Dot Com Mob and CAYLUS support so far. (see maps). This includes two remote secondary college sites at Yulara and Imanpa.
CAYLUS estimate of user numbers for computer rooms across the region is 5,000. This estimate is based on data from remote Aboriginal community and town camp youth workers and digital mentoring project workers. This is a conservative estimate, as the age range and numbers of people accessing computers continues to expand.
Geeks-in-Residence project in remote communities has been a particularly successful program supported by Dot Com Mob. The idea is for the geek to work with local people on skills development so that effective skills transfer takes place. We have found that once a skill set is established in community, that the local mob show their family and friends, and the skills stay.