A recent report ranked Australian Internet speeds at 44th globally, behind countries such as Singapore, Japan and New Zealand.
Whilst the wait for a movie to download or a delayed podcast stream can be frustrating, slow Internet has a much larger impact on Australians than many of us may realise. Particularly for those living in rural and remote regions with many schools, businesses and homes are at serious risk of falling behind in a vastly competitive digital world.
As the Federal President of the Isolated Children’s Parent’s Association of Australia (ICPAA), I always think about how these issues will affect our children. As a mum of three and a long-time resident of rural Australia (I currently live an hour away from Walgett in North Western NSW), I know how slow Internet can be in rural Australia
Living in a country with a land mass as vast as ours, our population is not only spread out but there are also many of us living in remote areas. Whilst traditional educational services cannot possibly be provided to every student, the difference in access to fast internet speeds means that our rural children are often disadvantaged.
We are however making progress – the National Broadband Network has just announced completion of all ten of its satellite ground stations. These stations will act as a backbone to help deliver faster Internet services to around 400,000 Australian homes, business and schools in regional and rural Australia.
Country kids are just as intrigued with the world of technology as their urban counterparts, and with all distance education schools in Australia now providing lessons over the Internet it is vital that these children have access to fast broadband. The launch of the new NBN satellite services are a welcome advancement as it will help to overcome common issues such as slow speeds and drop outs.
Bigger cities take for granted the benefits fast broadband provides – imagine waiting a full working day (eight hours) to upload a podcast, or it taking the same time to make a cup of tea as it would to load a webpage. For many country kids still contending with dial up internet, something as simple as downloading a movie can take up to three days – in this time you coud drive back and forth from Sydney to Melbourne four times!
Every child deserves the right to reach their full potential and as a nation we must continue to work together to overcome the education challenges brought about by geographical isolation.
The NBN is currently helping to bridge the digital divide, and I know there will be many families across Australia eagerly awaiting its roll out.