Digital futures in Indigenous communities research paper launch

Our 'From Information Kiosks to Community Hubs' research project aimed to overcome the digital divide within Indigenous communities using a network of touch screen kiosks for public use. A research paper was launched in August 2016 to a packed room at the University of Melbourne.

Hitnet informations kiosks in three northern Australian Indigenous communities were focus of our inter-institutional interdisciplinary research team.

Kristen Smith (Indigenous Studies Unit of the Centre for Health), Richard Chenhall (Melbourne School of Population and Global Health), Scott McQuire (School of Culture and Communication) and Emma Kowal (Deakin University) wanted to assess how the kiosks were being used. What features contribute to a successful interaction, such as physical placement, digital literacy and the relevance of the content?

Results from the assessment would help inform how the kiosks can be adapted to meet the diverse and evolving needs of indigenous people in remote areas of Australia. This would transform information kiosks to community hubs enabling new possibilities for local community co-creation and co-management of content?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are under-serviced by digital technologies, with indigenous Australians being 69% less likely than non-indigenous people to have any Internet connection and are about half as likely to have broadband access.

This 'digital divide' contributes to and reinforces educational, income, employment and geographical disadvantage. While uneven access remains a particular problem for rural and remote Aboriginal communities, digital technology also provides a way of overcoming Indigenous social disadvantage.

The Hitnet model provides engaging and relevant health information to indigenous communities. This was particularly the case for content that was co-created by the communities that use it, and where stories and knowledge are networked and shared between communities through the kiosks.

Participants in the study specifically expressed a need for:

1. Access to a broader range of locally relevant information

2. Information that is responsive to community needs

3. Timely provision of information that is regularly updated

4. More input to the information. This would involve a paradigm shift in which the Hitnet kiosks would function more as ‘community hubs’.

Hitnet are now looking into implementing changes suggested by this research, including the adaptation of cross platform technologies, such as smart phones and tablets, into the HITnet kiosk network.

The research paper addresses the digital divide in rural Indigenous communities, and the specifics of the project. It's a great read, especially for those interested in the socially transformative effects of technology.

Click through to access the full version of Digital Futures in Indigenous Communities: From Health Kiosks to Community Hubs or check out our Publications section for further reading from the Melbourne Networked Society Institute.

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Kate Murray

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