Remote Indigenous Australians Jump the Digital Divide

Indigenous people in the remote Cape York region of Northern Australia are set to enter the digital age with the construction of the Cape York Digital Network (cydn). An IP network powered by Cisco Systems, cydn is installing videoconferencing and computers with Internet and intranet access in 16 remote communities.

The Cape York Digital Network is part of a larger group of five indigenous communications organisations that cover over 1.5 million square kilometers in Northern Australia known as the Outback Digital Network Ltd (ODN).

Having the best available digital infrastructure and a future-proof network based on IP is the key to building our local economy and educating our kids for the future, says Kevin Fong, Chairman of the ODN. All of these communities are very isolated and the only way to solve this is with a reliable communications network.

The facilities will allow local people to have access to computer technology, and to access education by videoconference. A Cisco Aironet wireless local area network is also being installed in each location, which will allow everyone in the community to access the benefits of cydn.

“This is an extreme environment and we need robust equipment that will perform, and be capable of catering to increasing demand in the future”, says Philip Dutchak, ODN National Project Manager.

Although Australia is a developed nation, indigenous Australians standards of health, education and life expectancy is far below the national average. Access to the services and opportunities the latest communications technology offers is vital to breaking this vicious cycle.

What’s missing in remote indigenous communities is small business and enterprise, says Mr. Fong. The network will give people the tools they need to build their economy and escape the welfare trap.

Cisco is providing more than high-tech boxes. There are plans to provide computer networking training and establish a test lab in Cairns – the first one outside a state capital in Australia.

Cisco Queensland regional manager, John Winters said; Cisco is pleased that we were selected by cydn to be their networking technology partner. We believe this project will enrich lives and provide a catalyst for change in remote communities.

The rollout is part of a broader framework of economic and social development for the region that seeks to take a holistic approach to social change in Aboriginal communities.

In Cape York we’re laying the foundations for our people to create an independent economic base, says Gerhardt Pearson, CEO of cydn. We’re supporting the creation of several new indigenous businesses and they need to have access to the latest IT applications to ensure they can be profitable.

Final planning is currently underway to extend the network to other regions of the ODN.

The Cape York network was designed and built by ODN partner, Network Design and Construction (NDC).

The project is funded by the Australian Federal Government’s Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts through the Networking the Nation fund.

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