Internet to the Outback
by GEORGE MURDOCH
What does the Internet mean to remote
The Internet is a worldwide computer-based network that operates through
existing national and international telephone communication systems.
It allows individuals to communicate with other individuals or groups
through their home computers or to gain worldwide access to huge and
rapidly expanding sources of electronically stored information on every
imaginable topic. Text, colour pictures, sound and even moving pictures
can be transmitted.
The technology means that, for the first time in history, people living
vast distances from major centres of population have access to information
resources directly comparable to that of their city cousins. By taking
advantage of competitive after 7pm rates offered by different telephone
companies, communication costs in using the Internet can be kept quite
Connection to the Internet presents many opportunities for all the family.
Electronic mail (or e-mail) opens new vistas for social contact across
the home district, the region and the world - all at a fraction of the
cost of a telephone call. Use of E-mail also allows people living in
remote areas to study accredited courses with universities and TAFE
What is 'Internet to the Outback'?
'Internet to the Outback' is a project which seeks to encourage and
support the use of computer based information and communications systems
in distance education, particularly through existing Schools of Distance
The project will train volunteers in the use of the Internet as a medium
in education and, more generally, as a source of information. These
volunteers will then travel to stay with outback families in their own
homes, working for up to a week with children and parents in learning
to make best use of the system.
The first group of volunteers has completed its initial training and
some of these are already in the field with the Alice Springs School
of Distance Education.
Volunteers for Isolated Students' Education (VISE) is coordinating the
What is 'Volunteers for Isolated Students' Education' (VISE)?
VISE was established eight years ago by a small group of retired teachers
to support isolated outback families involved with distance education.
Parents living in remote situations always worry that they are not providing
the right kind of help and guidance in supporting their children's education
- and there's no one around to give them any feedback or guidance on
how they are filling their role.
VISE covers the volunteer's costs to and from a geographic cluster of
outback families while the families themselves are expected to provide
board and lodging and meet the volunteer's travel costs to the next
family within the cluster.
Volunteers for 'Internet to the Outback' are a specially selected, new
group trained for the specific task of introducing or guiding families
in using of Internet technology in their distance education programs.
The 'Internet to the Outback' volunteer program is an addition to the
normal and continuing VISE support program for isolated families.
Who is eligible to have 'Internet to
the Outback' Volunteers visit their home?
All families with children being educated through Schools of Distance
Education are eligible to receive visits from VISE volunteers from the
'Internet to the Outback' program. To make the visits economically viable,
clusters of six families need to be organised - and we do understand
that 'next door' in the outback can be over the horizon! Participating
families will also need the minimum computer equipment and connection
Who's paying for 'Internet to the Outback'?
'Internet to the Outback' is part-funded through the federal governmentís
'Networking the Nation' program - a $250 million initiative designed
to give everyone, living anywhere in Australia, access to the Internet
at the end of a five year period. Substantial contribution has also
come from the Hyundai National Country Music Muster, held annually at
Gympie. The Gympie Muster is the principal sponsor of the mainstream
The University of Ballarat is supporting the 'Internet to the Outback'
program through the provision of training for the volunteers and technical
support and advice, including visits during March to Schools of Distance
Education in four states by a senior University technician.
If you would like to know more about either 'Internet to the Outback'
George Murdoch, 31 Rebecca Crescent
3028 03 9369 6709 or 018 896 156 (Mar 1-Mar 20)