The role of telecommunications in the sustainable development of communities throughout the Northern Territory is the subject of a recently completed PhD.
Dr Susan Bandias, who will be awarded a PhD from Charles Darwin University this week, said her interest in the role of telecommunications was spurred by her experiences living within a remote community on the Tiwi Islands.
At the time, the community had only two public telephones and no infrastructure for private telephone lines to be installed in homes, and she said this was a big problem for the residents.
“It just exacerbated their feelings of isolation,” Dr Bandias said.
Dr Bandias’s thesis, entitled The role of telecommunications in sustainable development of urban, rural and remote communities in the Northern Territory, explored the impact of telecommunications through the “theoretical lens of social capital”, a concept she defined as “a means to both describe and understand social and economic development, and provide an accurate measure of well-being within that development”.
“When you live remotely, telecommunications becomes paramount. It’s your sole means of maintaining contact with family and friends, and with the outside world in general,” she said.
“When a community isn’t afforded communications systems because the telecommunication companies don’t think it is a financially viable proposition, then that obviously creates a tension within that community.”
And it’s this tension that has an affect on a community’s social capital. A lack of social contact with family, friends and the broader community can have an adverse impact on a community’s social and economic sustainability, Dr Bandias said.
She said that politicians were beginning to take notice.
While she said her work was in no way designed to lobby government, she would like to help the policy-makers gain a clearer understanding of the problems that could arise when telecommunication infrastructure was not available to remote communities, in particular.
“I’m actually in the process of setting up a special interest group here in the NT to highlight the lack of telecommunications in remote communities in order to keep the issue at the forefront and, hopefully, provide a forum to assist in resolving these issues,” she said.