Digital wilderness concern

August 04, 2017

Do census figures mean Greater Shepparton is at risk of being left in the digital wilderness?

According to a snapshot of last year’s census statistics for Greater Shepparton, the city is less connected to the internet than the Victorian and National averages.

About 19 per cent of dwellings in Greater Shepparton were reported as not connected to the internet.

This figure was higher than the proportion of Victorian homes not connected (13.6 per cent) and dwellings nationally not connected (14.1 per cent).

Meanwhile, just under 80 per cent of households in Greater Shepparton were found to have had at least one person access the internet from the dwelling, whether through a computer, mobile, tablet, gaming console, smart TV or other device.

It’s difficult to know what factors are at play here.

An obvious point the data might not factor in is the now ubiquitous access to the internet from mobile devices.

It’s also difficult to know how significantly this lack of connectivity is holding the city back. And if so, in what areas.

Greater Shepparton City Council clarified there were factors, like populations without broad computer literacy, which were likely influencing these figures.

The council added the valid point that regardless of whether web access was from the home or otherwise, having access in one shape or form was the main point.

And many residents no doubt have access to these resources from libraries, workplaces and even the city’s free wi-Fi network.

Not to mention the wealth of local cafes with free wi-Fi.

What is clear is the importance in coming decades for regional areas of Australia to have as close to the sort of opportunities for internet access as the nation’s capital cities.

When asked about the difference in local, state and national averages, one local stakeholder commented moving forward, internet connectivity in communities would play as important a role in their fortunes as rail and road infrastructure.

This doesn’t only relate to new and emerging industries either, but the ability for modern day industries to continue to stay up to date with developments, to be able to promote themselves effectively, reach markets and ultimately stay competitive.

But there’s a number of other aspirations of Greater Shepparton which hinge on this, too.

One is making sure the brightest of Shepparton’s talent isn’t given reason not to stay in the region.

Especially not as a result of a limit in the level of connectivity ensuring they can build that business seamlessly from their living room or connect with potential customers on the other side of the world.

Connectivity is vital in ensuring small communities are not left behind in the digital wilderness.

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