As part of the build-up to an expected federal
election, rural families, Australian indigenous communities and senior
citizens should benefit from an Australian Government initiative to bolster
Web use in regional areas.
The ‘Networking the Nation’ grants, totalling AUS$11.5 million, come from
the Regional Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (RTIF) and will aid 44
projects in various states across Australia. The RTIF was established last
year with the one-third sale of the once Government-owned
telecommunications company Telstra.
The latest round of projects to receive funding include AUS$2 million for
an IT bridging scheme in rural Queensland. This regionally coordinated
project aims Internet training and support to those who might not otherwise
have access to the Net.
Also on the cards is a plan to invest more than AUS$1.5 million in
providing free Internet access through 91 public and two mobile libraries
in South Australia; the RTIF additionally intends to direct AUS$1 million
to Internet service and support in regional Victoria.
Nearly AUS$2 million will further be devoted to developing cyber cafes in
rural New South Wales that will eventually create a gateway Web site to
help encourage the use of e-commerce and promote the shire that is using
Federal Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, said that the Government’s rationale behind the funding initiative was to help “bridge the communications gap between urban and non-urban Australia.”
While this round of schemes comes in the buildup to a federal election, the RTIF invested AUS$69 million in Australia’s telecommunications infrastructure. Although the RTIF is focusing much of its efforts on developing community through regional Australia via the Internet, this latest round of projects will also fund non-Web related telecommunications projects designed to connect people in rural areas.