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Remote communities get connected under federal funding

Stephanie Gardiner -

People living in remote Australia are set to receive better internet and mobile services in a government bid to improve poor rates of digital inclusion.

Projects to provide wi-fi and fixed wireless in regions including Haasts Bluff and Wilora, in the Northern Territory, are among 136 granted $170 million in federal funding.

The projects span regional, rural and remote Australia, including 44 in First Nations communities.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the move would help close the digital divide.

"It doesn't matter where you live, access to reliable mobile coverage and connectivity is essential in 2023," she said.

RMIT University-led research released in September showed 43 per cent of Australia's 1545 Indigenous communities have no mobile service.

Some only have a shared public phone or no telecommunications at all, according to the Mapping the Digital Gap report.

The national divide in digital access between Indigenous and other Australians is 7.5 points out of 100.

That gap widens to 24.5 points for remote Indigenous people and 25.4 points for those in very remote communities.

Australia's Closing the Gap targets aim for First Nations people to have equal levels of digital inclusion by 2026, though there has been limited data to track progress over the last decade.

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy said inadequate access was a critical issue.

"It means you can't call the local health clinic and police in an emergency or even buy food with your EFTPOS Card," Senator McCarthy said.

"This major investment in remote and regional connectivity will be a game changer in ensuring more communities can stay connected and safe with essential and reliable phone services."

The funding is part of the Regional Connectivity and Mobile Black Spot programs, with an extra $106 million from states, territories and industry.

Stephanie Gardiner - AAP

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