Progress in 2012
The Broadband Innovation project included a systematic investigation into the remarkable growth of Internet television by four US-based corporations during 2011: Netflix, Apple, Google and Facebook. This work took into account several changes in terms of accountability for broadcasters recommended by the Australian Government Convergence Review. Much of the commercial innovation planning around NBN has centred on IPTV, but this work raises key issues that could redefine television as we know it and disrupt existing institutional practices. The project also investigated a further specific user environment—Australians on a low income—in regard to broadband affordability, take-up and public policy. It documented the continuing link between income and connectivity and explored the nature of the digital divide in regard to wireless and fixed broadband access. The published results of this project have given impetus to a new telecommunications affordability research program by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).
The Home Internet Project (HIP) documented residents’ use of computers in the three participating communities, as well as related factors including household management of hardware, maintenance, knowledge-sharing and digital literacy. Data was collected via quarterly interviews with residents, as well as observation logs from maintenance/training visits (conducted by CAT every 4 to 6 weeks). The HIP project also undertook comparative research on the uses occurring within a shared internet facility, as well as a detailed examination of the One Laptop Per Child program which operates in many remote primary schools. The HIP trial has produced significant insights into the economic, cultural and environmental factors influencing broadband adoption and use in remote Indigenous communities, as well as the opportunities for online service delivery. Early findings were disseminated through academic and policy forums in 2012, including a CCI-hosted research forum during the Broadband for the Bush symposium in Alice Springs.
New Knowledge Generated
This research into broadband application and service developments breaks new ground by extending the work of innovation theorists such as Schumpeter into notions of disruption (Christensen), dis-intermediation (Tapscott) and re-intermediation (Hammer). The relationship between income and broadband take-up in Australia was analysed for the first time from three distinct sources, identifying specific aspects of digital exclusion related to income and technology affordability, and linking to public policy opportunities.
The Home Internet Project has provided evidence of the substantial obstacles faced by Indigenous households in remote communities when it comes to accessing the internet, both at the physical (infrastructure) level, the maintenance and management of computers in the home, and in terms of household economics. The project has also uncovered significant assumptions that are built-in to the retail structures of internet provision, and which discourage, or prevent, Indigenous households from subscribing to internet services. However, the trial has indicated that residents are benefitting from home internet access through online banking and shopping, as well as communication with various agencies. The project has developed concrete recommendations for enabling greater broadband take-up in remote Indigenous communities, as well as producing original insights into the cultural, gendered and age-related dimensions of internet use.