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The internet. Help or hindrance?

The internet. Help or hindrance. Ask a rural or remote parent/teacher and they probably couldn’t give you a definite answer.

They’d agree that they need it and couldn’t live without it but to have it reliably accessible day in day out is not as easy as it should be. Getting connected can take months, staying within a low capped plan (as that’s sometimes all that’s offered out here) can take enforced boundaries and getting help can be more frustrating than waiting for rain. We focus on those that ‘need’ it, those in the city than can’t seem to be without it and getting it to where the majority live. Yet in the middle of nowhere, it needs to be seen that there are supervisors struggling to give their kids an education because if they don’t have easy access to the internet then they can’t get the support they need in an already tough and isolated lifestyle.

I always thought I was born in a ‘boring’ era and that nothing overly mentionable has happened in ways of technology or advances. I look back to my Nanna’s and even Mum’s generation and they saw horse and carts vanish, colour TV evolve, telephones take place and computers take hold. I’ve only seen the rise and fall of the fax machine, the invention of the mobile phone and the introduction of techno music. But then, it hits me, I’ve seen what would surely be called the biggest advance in technology the world has ever seen? WWW. The net. The web. Online. Whatever you call it, it’s introduction into our lives has made us completely reliant on its existence and hungry for its progress.

We all have reasons and needs for the internet; work, play, love, money, enjoyment. Whatever your flavour, we need it and we are thankful for it. My reasons for needing it are education. I don’t blog, I don’t do social networking, I don’t chat. But what I do do is teach and to be able to teach to the best of my abilities, I rely on quick, easy, reliable internet. It wasn’t so long ago we didn’t have that opportunity and we didn’t know how badly we would come to need it. The bottom line is, without it, my children don’t get an education.

We’ve moved from receiving their resources and my instruction in booklet form in the post (and often late) to downloading it instantly off the web into our hot little hands. Of course, for us that rely on the internet because of our rural and remote situation and our dedication to teach our kids, our needs are not the same as city folk but no less important. We can’t pack our kids off to school each day and have them return knowing how to read. We don’t receive a student report at the end of each term and wonder how they learnt those things. We have sat there, by their sides, by their computers, and pushed them towards achieving their goals, teaching them what we thought we forgot, showing them the way. And knowing we can do this by simply clicking a button and accessing much needed support is more important than most would understand.

I guess that’s all I’m trying to say; our needs are just as important as everyone else’s and just because we live beyond the black stump, doesn’t make our reasons for wanting it reliably on a daily basis any less worthy. In actual fact, I’d almost say our needs warrant more attention.

Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay and we simply can’t do it without the wonderful world wide web.

Petie Moore lives at McDouall Peak Station in South Australia and is the Publicity Officer for the Isolated Children's Parents' Association, North West Branch

The Rural, Regional and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) has been formed to highlight the collective concerns of families, businesses and communities about inequitable access to telecommunications services in the bush. The RRRCC will be leading a public campaign on these issues over the coming months.

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