With the rollout of the ‘Next G’ network into even the most remote communities in the Northern Territory, more and more Indigenous people are using state of the art technologies to communicate, organise their lives and share information.
Petra Mayerhofer is a visiting research intern from Austria undertaking her Masters with The Northern Institute. She is investigating how mobile phones, laptops and the Internet are changing people’s lives in Indigenous communities, especially in relation to temporary mobility.
“It’s well known that technologies like the Internet have changed the supply chain and altered aspects of consumer behaviour in relation to leisure, business and necessary travel in developed countries,” she said.
“But until recently Indigenous communities in the NT were almost completely cut off from the digital world. Early research shows mobile phone uptake rates at world record levels and right now most kids are getting a free laptop as well.”
Petra’s research asks what this means for travel to and from remote areas in this early stage of adoption and how people’s lives will be affected in the longer term.
“I’ve been talking to people in remote communities,” she said.
“It’s clear after only two to three years after the network was installed, a majority of people own and use mobile phones out there, especially younger generations who are intensive users. They text extensively, call friends or relatives and send photos on their travel experiences while on the move in urban centres or interstate.”
Petra’s work is part of a larger program of research examining future Indigenous migration and settlement scenarios for the Northern Territory.
“Young people are also using chat rooms and celebrity information pages over the internet on their phones,” she said.
“We also learnt that many take great care to spell things correctly when texting.”
Petra believes that the educational benefits from technology adoption might become evident in the future, and that we are likely to see changes in migration patterns as people learn about places and events outside of their regions. Her findings will be available on the Northern Institute website in November 2010.